I caught a post from a Facebook group that is set up to discuss churchy stuff. A member announced that his tradition was treated as second class in the threads and he was leaving, which brought the following comments:
Christians on the internet are like any other cohort of the population. We go heavy on the salt and skimp on the grace.
What might we do to be unlike others? There’s another way visible in the work of the conflicted church of the first Apostles. Have a look at Acts 15:1-6,
But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.” The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter.
The conflict was no small thing. It was a question of knowing and obeying the will of God, with two different and irreconcilable answers put forward. Typical pressure valves like “Agree to disagree,” “Unity in Diversity” or – God forbid – the degraded version of Anglican “Via Media” that says we can be the middle between any possible polarities – could not resolve this formidable yes-or-no, left-or-right, black-or-white issue.
So the local church dispatched representatives of both positions to go to the overseers of the whole church for a decision – a proclamation that was sure to leave one group vindicated and the other not.
As these conflicted delegates made their way to the debate and ruling, they did something very unlike social media sniping and snarking. They spent time “bringing joy” to churches along the way by announcing that Christ is winning. Wherever they stopped, the told how the Lord was reaching out to all nations, even though they (the delegates) had a big conflict over how to follow up. But they put the victory of Christ first and foremost.
Obviously, this is not a solution to conflicts in which we find ourselves with non-Christians. Celebrating the victory of Christ on Twitter will bring us the usual slapping and spitting, which is as the Lord says it will be.
But within the Christian fellowship, locally or broadly, might we not progress by going with Jesus for the win, rather than our own parties and positions? We can’t possibly harmonize all of our parties and positions (if we could, there wouldn’t be so many). But we can set them down for a bit to celebrate what precedes any of our efforts at follow up:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)
More of this grace in which we stand, less of our own salty wit. The world needs Christ, not me, for the win.