Why is the Church so Polarized?

I don’t know what’s happening to the church in North America but it seems that a great divide is growing and I don’t believe it’s of the Lord. There is a view that if a Christian doesn’t hold exactly to a full set of beliefs they are automatically on the outside looking in.

The balance is gone

When I was a teenager I remember a dear friend of mine always saying, “Balance is the key”. I never forgot that. It has saved me from much conflict over the years.

The middle ground is disappearing. I see this all the time. Instead of looking at the good in 2 opposing sides there is a demand to choose one and despise the other.

Let’s talk specifics

The recent debate about racism in the US is a perfect example. If a person speaks out against systemic racism or used the phrase “Black Lives Matter” they are labeled “liberal” or even worse, anti-Republican. If a person stays silent they are condemned for being blind and ignorant and promoting an ultra-Right view.

Stats are thrown around like confetti in the wind. Everyone has their favourite experts to prop up and their hobby horses to ride.

Inside the church

The same is true inside the church. If an assembly does something outside the traditional norm they are often blasted for being liberal because they don’t follow all the same rules. If an assembly doesn’t change fast enough they are put down as legalistic.

We need to find a way to gather on the common ground and rejoice in that. Unity is not uniformity. Unity is not looking exactly the same. Unity is an acknowledgment that Christ is our only common ground.

3 ways to promote a center view

It’s easy to take sides. It’s more difficult to take a step back and acknowledge that another point of view may have merit.

  1. Be careful of words used. It’s so sad to me (and I see it in my own life too) when Christians use belittling words to talk to other believers. Comments like, “If you read the scriptures…” “Any student of the Word would see that…”. These types of phrases hurt unity. They create a bigger divide. Let’s try to use words that build up not tear down. James 3:9-12.
  2. Don’t assume motives. This has to be one of the easiest ways to stir up conflict. I can’t count how many times I see this happening. We don’t know what’s in people’s hearts (only Jesus does). Why do we think we do? Let’s assume the best of a person’s motives instead of automatically assuming the worst.
  3. Admit the good in others. Ouch, this is so tough to do. It’s not all or nothing. We can agree that the “other side” has some valid points. We don’t have to dismiss everything because we don’t agree on all the details.

Taking a more neutral stance

I suggest we take a more balanced approach. Instead of coming up with a list that everyone must agree with or else, let’s take each point at face value and look at the person as a whole.

I believe the Lord Jesus took a middle-ground approach on most subjects. He was able to acknowledge the left and right without compromising the truth. He wasn’t extreme. (Luke 20:25, John 8:7)

I believe we should follow His example and consider the good from both sides and use them instead of taking the whole side and adopting only 1 view.

Conclusion

Can we stop the mudslinging? Can we agree to find the good in other views? Can we look at others of different opinions in love and seek to build them up instead of hate and ostracizing?

Unity starts with me.

Photo by jean wimmerlin on Unsplash

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    3 Comments

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    I was reading this morning in Oswald Sanders’ classic work, “The Incomparable Christ.” The first chapter is entitled, “The Moral Perfection of Christ.” I am tempted to post the entire chapter but will suffice with this: “In speech as in silence His perfect balance of character was displayed. He never spoke when it would have been wiser to remain silent, never kept silence when He should have spoken. Mercy and judgment blended in all His actions and judgments, yet neither prevailed at the expense of the other. Exact truth and infinite love adorned each other in His winsome personality, for He always spoke the truth in love. His severe denunciations of apostate Jerusalem were tremulous with His sobs (Matthew 23:37). True to His own counsel, He manifested the prudence of the serpent and the simplicity of the dove. His tremendous inner strength never degenerated into mere obstinacy. He mastered the difficult art of displaying sympathy without surrendering principle.”

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    These are wise words indeed. I often wonder how is it that Christians appear to have failed at this most prescient moment to be a people of reconciliation and renewal in the face of all this tumult? And how do we get out of the mess to become a reconciling presence in the world through Jesus Christ? How can Christians respond in the face of this failure, to be the presence of his love, reconciliation, and healing in a world torn by strife and ugly conflict? I submit that it does not help when the Church mirrors the rhetoric and divisiveness of the culture from which it is called to be a contrast both in presence and conduct.

    I believe that we must acknowledge that we have been a woefully inadequate example of mutual submission which is a major theme in the Apostle Paul’s discussion of Church polity. See Ephesians Ch. 5 and, of course, our Lord”s command to:
    mutual submission and humility referenced in Matthew 5:22-24, among other places.

    “[22] But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. [23] So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, [24] leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

    Of course there are non-negotiables to which we adhere and on which we stand firm. Yet, my journey is such that I discover daily how little I actually know in reference to how much I once thought I knew. Truly we serve a God who is full of surprises, often revealed through the words of someone with whom we may not agree.

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