Friday, 10 June 2011

Denomination Derby

Derby /ˈdɜːrbɪ/ n. (pl. Derbies) 2. (derby or local derby) Brit. a sports match between two rival teams from the same area. (Oxford English Dictionary)

In aimless internet wandering last night I fell upon a Christian forum 'CARM'
. It is naive I know, but it never ceases to amaze me - the attitude of superiority amongst so many contributors, who really are all essentially batting for the same team but end up committing verbal hooliganism with the hatred and venom of Manchester United and Liverpool fans. To quote yet another clichéd idiom - we should all be singing from the same hymn sheet, even if we disagree when the hymn was written and the speed at which it should be sung!

Perhaps it is a case of a superiority complex - one must appear to be superior and have all the answers in case you are rumbled and discovered to actually be just as in the dark as everyone else.

But what, dear reader, what, at the end of the day*, is a Christian?

(*at the end of the day, it's a game of two halves - my British readers will rejoice in my excessive use of football commentator stock phrases)

Christian ˈkrɪstɪən, tʃ(ə) adj. 1 . relating to or professing Christianity or its teachings. 2 informal having qualities associated with Christians, e.g. kindness. n. a person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Christianity. (Oxford English Dictionary)

"[H]aving qualities associated with Christians, e.g. kindness", the editor of the OED obviously hasn't visited CARM recently :P

How are Christians called? We are called to serve, to humble ourselves. To teach - yes (if we truly believe that in God's sight we have the answer), to beat down no. To reason - perhaps, to bully - NO! To exhort - yes, to destroy - no.

"Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Matthew 20:26-28

Oh I love a good discussion, I agree that we all don't agree on the finer points of doctrine and probably never will until that great and glorious day when it will all be revealed. But we all know Jesus died for us, He set us free and we have redemption and resurrection because of Him. Surely that should count for something...everything!

Wouldn't it be beautiful it we enjoyed talking about Jesus, if we enjoyed discussing what He really meant, if we prayed before we shared, if we prayed for the people we discussed with, if we kept humble servant hearts and were more ready to listen than to speak, if we displayed the fruits of the Spirit and not the fruits of darkness.

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:29-32

I could write all this on the forum, but I would be eaten alive, alive I tell you! And would come across as being full of myself...which would defeat the object. And then I would get all offended and commit some verbal hooliganism of my own - yes, I am aware of my own weakness. I have written some pretty ham-fisted posts and comments in my time. I have started arguments, I have offended and I have fired off the odd stinging email - so I ain't writin' this from my pedestal in the clouds!

Going back to the OED definition of Christian, the main issue is that we cannot agree what 'Christian' actually means - what is 'Christianity'?. Does it simply mean someone who, to the best of their ability, follows Jesus? Or, are there criteria? We cannot agree on that either. We cannot agree what 'born-again' means. We cannot agree on what communion/breaking bread/Eucharist really means. We cannot agree on baptism. We cannot agree what 'church' means. We cannot agree on the work of the Holy Spirit. We circle one another like hyenas or coyotes, making little cutting remarks and personal insults, "You belong to a cult, your voice is not worthy to be heard", "You believe XYZ, you must be insulted because your viewpoint is quite frankly stupid". No. The only One Who is not stupid is God. We are all truly fools in our own minds - only God has the full truth and NONE of us have reached the goal yet. We press on, indeed! We seek the will of God. We read His Holy Word and pray for understanding. Because if we speak the truth we speak from His understanding and not our own. Man can never in his own mind understand, it is with the mind of Christ that we understand so that no man may boast. This, I believe, is the work of the Holy Spirit who reveals the truth to us as He wills.

Oh I agree there are Christian cults out there, who believe some weird things and try to get their followers to live in caves and drink poison! But even they don't need a circle of coyotes ripping them apart and treating them as monsters. We need the truth, but we need the truth in love. Not wishy-washy nicey-nicey bleugh, the truth hurts sometimes. But between brothers - and even if you don't agree you are brothers you are at least humans! - there should be mutual respect, prayer and love.

I love a good debate. I don't like the nastiness, which I why I shy away from actually commenting on forums - in case the full moon comes out and I start to howl.

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