Submitted to Faithwriters.com Challenge, Intermediate – 10 May 2017 – Topic: Agree to Disagree – Awarded 1st Place
I recently saw again a toy I remember from childhood: a boxing ring with two robots in red and blue. Players controlled the fighters through joysticks at the side of the ring. The aim was to hit the opponent’s robot in order to make his head pop up, or to “knock his block off,” as we say in England.
This fighting talk has become common in the political arena, with politicians trading personal insults, especially approaching elections. Policies come second in the debates, and many poorer people feel they come last in the war of words.
Sadly, the same can be true of the church. Despite decades of work building ecumenical relations, there is a steady stream of new denominations or individual preachers who are happy to condemn another group for false belief or practice.
Even within congregations, it can be easy to label people for what for what they do “wrong”, and so create a battle or at least unsettle the peace. An early Salvation Army song seems appropriate in some congregations: “God is keeping his soldiers fighting!”*
But rather than contests over what type of music we should sing, which is the “authorised” version of the Bible, and the nuances of atonement theology, William James Pearson had in mind to “tear Hell’s throne to pieces, and win the world for Jesus.
Quarreling among believers is nothing new – it began with the twelve and carried on into the early church. Paul advised Timothy, his young protégé, not to “have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” (2 Timothy 2:23-24 NIV)
For a few years, I belonged to a regional group of ministers from a variety of churches who shared a broadly charismatic outlook. We would often joke with one about the number of saints his church venerated, with another that he needed to get baptised and take communion, and with a third about the arcane processes of his denomination. Yet we were all secure in the mutual recognition of our salvation and calling in Christ.
In our increasingly tense and nervous world, people need to hear the voice of peace from the church. So let us graciously agree to disagree amongst amongst ourselves, but unite in fighting the Devil and presenting the gospel of reconciliation to a fragile and broken world.
*Words William James Person (1832-1892), Public Domain. – no. 953 in The Song Book of The Salvation Army, 2015 edition, London: The Salvation Army, International Headquarters.