How could one man chase a thousand, or two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, unless the LORD had given them up? For their rock is not is not like our Rock, as even our enemies concede.
How it must break God’s heart to hear terminology like “the Christian Right” and “left-wing Christians,” “mainstream churches” and “splinter groups.” No doubt He winces (at the very least) when we answer inquiries about our faith with denominational affiliation or where we worship. Every convened forum to debate doctrine and legislate policy surely infuriates Him. Politics never figured into God’s plan. Yet from the start, we’ve done our best to foil His intentions. The quarreling that began soon after the first 120 Christians left the Upper Room hasn’t stopped, and won’t stop until Jesus returns to unify His Church by separating true believers from impostors.
We’ve all but forgot the Second Coming and Final Judgment are regrettable amendments to the original design. Christ’s First Coming and Calvary’s verdict were meant to be final, forever reconciling our differences with God and, by extension, uniting us as equals by His grace. Two prophecies (Isaiah 2.4 and Micah 4.3) emphasize this almost word for word: “He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” Global rejection of Christ accounts for humanity’s perpetual conflicts. But what explains the Church’s persistent infighting? How can people bound together by God’s grace justify constantly battling each other?
When Believers Attack
Actually, an understandable—though hardly legitimate—reason comes into play when believers attack one another. Recognizing what that is would greatly help both sides declare peace and convert their weapons of war into tools for growth. Ironically, the very grace binding us together also tears apart. Because each of us cherishes it so passionately we’re compelled to defend and protect it. Both sides’ unyielding faith in God’s grace is a magnificent thing, undoubtedly the highest honor they offer Him. But the miracle of grace is too overwhelming to fully comprehend. It doesn’t take much thought about it to send us reeling into a drunken frenzy of misguided, graceless emotions and behaviors. We forget Jesus issued an open invitation to His well: "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (Revelation 22.17) Accepting Christ's invitation to drink living water requires us to invite anyone else who's thirsty to drink with us. Unfortunately, however, many of us get so excited and greedy with grace, we want it all to ourselves. In our headiness, we actually try to drive others away.
Let’s be honest: overindulgence in Christian fervor makes for mean drunks. We pick fights with fellow believers who, in our opinion, have no business savoring the same forgiveness and acceptance we prize so dearly. Abusing faith’s potency as an intoxicant throws us off balance, distorts our vision, clouds our minds, and releases personal inhibitions we’re taught to respect. We sacrifice all self-control to confront fellow believers who don’t look or act like us, who we don’t believe belong in our company, and who anger us by taking a seat we feel they don’t deserve. Insults start flying back and forth. Arguments break out. Everyone’s flashing ID’s and challenging each other’s scriptural rights to drink Christ’s living water. More drunks jump into the fracas, ponying up on one of two sides. People scramble to find God, as if He were a bouncer screening who’s eligible to get in and throwing troublemakers out. But God’s long gone. This isn’t His kind of crowd. Meanwhile, no one seems to care that desperately parched people see our pandemonium, hear our racket, and walk away. We’re not their kind of crowd, either.
Condemning confrontational Christians makes us confrontational. We join the opposition and, therefore, oppose God’s plan and Christ’s purpose. We weren’t saved to identify with ideology, doctrine, or dogma—to side with the left or right, to be Catholics or Protestants or any other schism. Jesus died to bring us back to God and establish peace among His people. If other believers stumble around like blind drunks, tripping over themselves, stirring up trouble, and embarrassing one another, so be it. Our sole identification is with our Maker. We stand only with Him and those lucid enough to stand with Him.
That other crowd is too woozy to remember God has no tolerance for intolerance, particularly when practiced in His name. Deuteronomy says He sells them—He gives them up. Although He once priced their value equal to His Son’s life, they’re worth so little now one faithful believer can chase a thousand of them away, two people can send ten thousand packing. Notice the subtle downshift in capitalization. The Rock they claim to stand on gives them up to find another (all lower-case) rock. “Their rock is not like our Rock,” Deuteronomy 32.31 says, “Even our enemies can see that.” Numbers, politics, and opinions have no importance when we identify exclusively with the Rock. We may feel like outsiders, but doing as He says makes us a majority of one. When faith brawls flare up around us, putting as much distance as possible between them and us ends in our adversaries’ flight. One minute they engulf us with bickering and broadsides. The next finds us wondering, “Where’d they go?”
God wants nothing to do with faith brawls, and neither should we.
(Tomorrow: From Panic to Picnic)