Every so often I include quotes in my articles from someone smarter than me that drives home the point. Almost without fail someone will comment, you lost me when you quoted… Not because of what the person said in the quote, but because of what else that person has said.
This narrative also plays out every time a Christian leader says something that is contrary to what someone else believes. About once a month it seems some Christian leader somewhere says something that brings controversy. People lose their minds and sentiments of well guess I have to get rid of all so and so’s books now start popping up.
Listen… You don’t have to believe everything someone believes. In fact, you shouldn’t. It’s okay to disagree. And it’s healthy to still listen, read, watch, and hang out with the people that you don’t see eye to eye on.
The real reason I’m writing this is because it bothers me to see Christians fighting other Christians. Our fight is not against flesh and blood. In other words, we aren’t supposed to fight ANY human. No human is the enemy. Every. Single. Person. EVER. Is loved by God. Unconditionally. People are not the enemy. Make no mistake, there is a battle going on, but our enemy is not people. We have too much friendly fire going on. We’d rather throw stones than engage in conversation.
Before you think I’m preaching on my soapbox, I’m not. I’m guilty of this more than I care to admit. I’m guilty of friendly fire. And I’m guilty of surrounding myself with people who think and believe what I do. I write this not from a place of you need to do better. Rather, let’s do better together.
Here’s what I’ve learned about what you should do when you disagree with their theology.
Don’t Overact. Evaluate.
I see it all the time. Some popular Christian leader comes out with an unpopular, unorthodox belief. People lose their freaking minds. Calm down. It’s okay.
They are human. And humans make mistakes. Maybe they are wrong on that issue. But maybe, just maybe, you are wrong. In other words, let’s all have some humility.
The typical response I see when a leader, author, or preacher says/does something that is perceived to be false is, Well I gotta throw out all the things they’ve said now. You don’t have to get rid of everything they’ve ever done. If you disagree with a few things they believe that’s okay. That doesn’t negate all the other things they have done or said. More on that in a minute…
Evaluate what they said, think about, and pray about it. Are they wrong? Are you wrong?
Don’t Become an Echo Chamber
My guess is if you were to examine the people you have learned from (spiritually) in the past year (books, podcasts, pastors, etc) you would find that the people you follow have similar theology, politics, race, and socio-economic status. I tend to be drawn to reading and listening to a certain type of person. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; we all have the people we tend to agree with. However it can be a bad thing when we only listen to people we agree with.
When we refuse to engage with people that are different and that think different we become an echo chamber. Our beliefs are never challenged. Our faith can easily can become stagnant.
I’ve always got this notion that in our churches there’s certain authors/leaders that you just need to avoid. Their ideas are dangerous. What a silly idea. Is that person wrong in some of their beliefs? Of course! But so are you. We all know that we are wrong, but often refuse to look outside our specific brand of theology for answers. That my friends is an echo chamber.
Read a book or listen to a podcast that is in a different theological camp. That comes from a different background. See how you might grow and be stretched.
Their Stance Doesn’t Negate Everything They’ve Said
Listen, I’m not saying we should blindly follow people that are theologically off. However let’s offer some grace. Every single one of us is wrong on something that we think we are right in. When you read an article, listen to a sermon, or buy a book we should always run what others say through the lens of Scripture. They aren’t God, and they will get things wrong. But just because someone may be wrong on one issue doesn’t mean we have to throw everything they’ve done in the trash.
I suspect that I have something in my theology that is wrong. I probably won’t know what that is on this side of heaven. That is probably true for you too. Let’s be wise, study what God says, and when we hear someone say something off let’s toss that idea out, not the person and everything else they’ve said.
Don’t Make Them The Enemy
People are not the enemy. Whether they knowingly taught something wrong or out of ignorance they are not the evil we are fighting. Often Christians get focused on fighting people rather than fighting the real enemy. Look no farther than this past election. I cannot count how many Christians I saw make accusations and pronounce their fight against the opposing candidate. Our fight isn’t against any person.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:10-12
We need to recognize who the real enemy is. We love people, we pray for people, we offer grace freely, and tell truth in love. We do not bash, ridicule, belittle, or condemn.
Stop Bashing Them
What I find sad is if you hop on Twitter or Facebook people are tearing them apart. Listen, that is NOT what we are supposed to do to our Christian brothers and sisters. There is a difference in lovingly correcting someone (which we are called to do) and condemning and bashing someone.
The next time a Christian leader falls from grace, before you say anything about them, spend time praying for them.
Does this mean we shouldn’t say anything when someone says something that stands opposed to what God’s Word says? No, absolutely not. But we need to say it in love and humility. With concern for the person and not condemnation. We need to speak the truth and point out wrong teaching, we need to warn others, but I believe there is a way to do that without bashing the person.
Too often we stand for truth and ignore the damage it’s doing. If your truth is hurting and bashing someone else you need to add in some grace. Let’s remember who our real enemy is and stop fighting other Christians. Instead let’s support each other and push each other closer to Jesus.
While many of these points still apply. I should add one thing. There are theological issues for which we should fight. We don’t need to be nasty about it, but we should stand firm. For me, there’s two theological hills I will die one. 1. Jesus is the only way to salvation. 2. Everyone is welcome. Everyone.
If someone is teaching something other than those two points I will take a stand. Every other point, I will choose grace. That’s what I see Jesus caring about so that’s what I want to care about.
How do you think we should react when an author, pastor, or Christian leader believes something we don’t?