Sunday, May 25, 2014

God's Love In The Midst Of Our Need To Be Right

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” ― Augustine of Hippo

It seems that the last few months have, more than ever before, brought a tidal wave of bad behavior across the internet, specifically among those who profess Christ. It's hard to know who to believe, what to think and whose side to take. I'm not referring to any one specific brouhaha, however, the most recent has been the TGC/Tullian Tchividjian disagreement. Let me just say for the record, I am not taking sides. Both "sides" if you will, have accomplished great things for the Kingdom that I believe God had prepared in advance (Eph. 2:10). That is not what this is about. Rather, this is about our need to be right. This has to do with our incessant desire to walk away the victor at all costs, especially in front of a watching world.

I would argue that in most cases the problem stems from a person's need to be right. When we are intent to maintain a "my way or the high way" posture we can be sure that we are clinging more to the need to be right and less to the God who loves us in the midst of our need to be right. Our responses tend to involve casting out those we disagree with rather than pursuing a grace filled relationship. We don't realize that we can disagree while respecting and honoring our brothers and sisters. We have forgotten how to approach one another in honest and open debate without the mudslinging that seems so prevalent.

Shouting people down and hurling passive-aggressive accusations only serve to stoke the fire of disunity.

Priest and author Brennan Manning notes:

“If we maintain the open-mindedness of children, we challenge fixed ideas and established structures, including our own. We listen to people in other denominations and religions. We don't find demons in those with whom we disagree. We don't cozy up to people who mouth our jargon. If we are open, we rarely resort to either-or: either creation or evolution, liberty or law, sacred or secular, Beethoven or Madonna. We focus on both-and, fully aware that God's truth cannot be imprisoned in a small definition.” The Ragamuffin Gospel 

I think he gets it right...

I know what you're thinking. This is crazy talk, especially for those of us from the reformed tradition and specifically those of us who cling to law and gospel to interpret the grace message of the Bible. Hear me out.

Is our doctrine and our theology really what we want to cling to and fight for to the point of failing at love?

Admittedly, this is scary. We are so convinced that our way is the only way. We fear that if we loosen our grip we will lose control sending everything to hell in a hand-basket. Manning reminds us that "God's truth cannot be imprisoned in a small definition." God is bigger than our theology, our doxology and our methodology. God is bigger than our convictions, our distinctions and our affections.

God is more gracious, generous and lavish than any of us dare imagine.

"But the father said to his slaves, `Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate" (Luke 15:22-24). This passage is true for us and for those with differing opinions, with differing theology and from different denominations.We are lost, every one of us. But God, being rich in mercy didn't just find us - although that would have been enough. He clothed us as royalty. He put a ring on our finger, all the while lavishly celebrating, singing and dancing because what was lost has been found. It's the best news ever.

God continues to sing, dance and throw beautiful royal robes over each one of our attempts to prove ourselves right.

Think about it, while we are shouting people down, God is shouting a celebration in the midst - for you and for me.

Martin Luther offers refreshing comments on his own approach to staying the course, even amid the strong voices of the pious in his day:

"In short, I will preach it [the Word], teach it, write it, but I will constrain no man by force, for faith must come freely without compulsion. Take myself as an example. I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything."
From Luther’s Invocavit Sermon 2 (March 1522)

May we strive to do the same by turning from force and compulsion and turning to God's eternal and gracious promises.

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zeph. 3:17


  1. God has a way to get across the fact that we are not right.

    He kills us.

    But, here is the good news regarding our death:

    Thanks for your gospel centered words!

    1. Appreciate you Steve! Heading over to the old adam now :)