A Guide To Christian In-Fighting, Or Peaceful Warriors

Though I wrote this post to coincide with today’s release of the infamous Rob Bell book about a more inclusive heaven/possible universalism (the subject and implications of which have caused battle lines to already be fiercely drawn) this is not another post about that controversy. I think this post could help alleviate the tensions there, but it’s not solely about the heaven and hell debate.

Though this isn't totally relevant it was still too good to pass up.

I’ve never fared well in the big debates among Christians. You know – the ones that make magazine cover articles and hot topics for blog entries. I certainly have opinions about  creationism, the infallibility of Scripture, homosexuality and so on, and I’ve watched my plenty of arguments over each side, and it’s precisely because of the arguments that I try not to participate.

You see I’ve seen enough now that I want it stop. Not because there is one correct answer, and it’s not because I’m a scared little boy afraid of a divided house, but because the fighting goes against the very nature of Jesus’ radical way.

Let us remember that we do not fight the way the world fights. We don’t go blow for blow, we don’t aim for the jugular, we don’t fight dirty. Especially with fellow brothers and sisters! I know lots of people think they are warriors for God and his truth, but those swords need to lie down. We fight with something not typically used: peace.

When we met Jesus we also encountered a new way of living. A Way that doesn’t engage in warfare but serves and prays for his enemy. One that doesn’t repay evil with evil. That doesn’t mean there won’t be disagreement and maybe even debate, but it does mean we are going to have to be civil, respectful, loving, merciful and peaceful. Not even in the direst of circumstances when everything is on the line can the sword be drawn (Jesus’ arrest in the garden of Gethsemane).

And let me say this. It’s a point I’ve made here on the blog before – that ultimately the person throws around insults and fighting words is not giving very much legitimacy to their ideas. In fact they are working against whatever their position may be. The person who is forging peace, who is gracious and forgiving and loving is actually showing the authenticity of their claim regardless of what side they are on. I’m sorry this is such a bad pun and probably makes me look like a universalist – but love does indeed win*.

Thoughts or responses? Criticisms, even?

*Just to clarify this is not a backhanded statement of which “side” I’m on in the universalism debate.

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23 Responses to A Guide To Christian In-Fighting, Or Peaceful Warriors

  1. Jeff says:

    In a debate ” throwing around insults and fighting words” is a losing strategy. Or, if you prefer, a strategy of losers. In most discussions on a particular religion there is no debate at all. Neither side is discussing provable facts or scientific evidence. They are simply or not so simply describing what they feel (believe). You can’t debate what someone feels.
    I personally don’t really care what someone believes unless they are trying to interfere with my life or my children’s lives with what they believe. In other words keep it to yourself and out of the public square. I know several fine Universalists, Catholics, Calvinists, Jews, Muslims,Presbyterians and Methodists. What they believe has nothing to do with being fine. I also know some real jerks in all of the above categories. I guess they believe the same things. What you believe doesn’t really matter to me. Being fine does matter.
    P.S. Peace is fine but there are times you have to defend, with force if necessary, your individual liberty.

  2. David says:

    Hmmm… it’s hard to respond. First, I guess peace as the Bible describes it is an internal “rest” of sorts that one has regardless of the circumstances. IE: Paul and Silas in prison, and the disciples in the storm. Peace is the lack of conflict between man and God, not always with their surroundings. (Philippians 4:7) Being a peacemaker is not the same as keeping the peace by not engaging others. Making peace often results in confrontation. The Bible is pretty clear about confrontation, and going to your brother and stuff like that.

    Jesus was not a wimp, he cleared the temple with anger that was not sin. The kingdom is violent. (Matt 11:12)

    In terms of what of Christian says about another, I think mostly there are better ways to deal with things. The name calling is absurd. There are those that are not saved that call themselves Christians (I can’t, for the life of me imagine why they would want to do that?!?!), but as we have previously discussed, it’s not always easy to tell. Jesus said let the wheat and the weeds grow up together, and at harvest time he’ll sort it out. (Matthew 13:24-30)

    Paul not to not to judge those with weaker faith. (Romans 14:1)

    However when it comes to error, the job of the elders is to protect the flock. It is the leaderships job to teach. The problem is that we have our superstar ministries and authors; but that is nothing a dose of persecution won’t fix.

    BTW – If a man is saved, but as part of his personal theology believes an error, is he going to hell?

    • good point that the Bible doesn’t talk about peace in the same way we do with peacemaking relative to violence and conflict. To me, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be pursuing peace in those circumstances. I definitely interpret the gospels as having anti-violence (the way of the world) slant, and I also interpret those who live by the sword die by the sword as not just literal – but as commentary on how we argue/debate whatever you want to call it.

      Of course I don’t mean we should never confront each other – it’s all in how you do with! With love, with peace. that doesn’t mean you can’t be stern – but I’m with you – the name calling, the burning anger, the fierceness – that has to go. Jesus is freeing us from that sort of behavior.

  3. Love does win Charlie. I tire of the infighting also but I think it is more of the mud-slinging and “fisticuffs” that go on that I am more tired of. Healthy debate or discussion (whatever word you prefer) is not bad. Provided, of course, that rules of engagement are observed. What bothers me is that even discussion somehow deteriorates into a slugfest of whose right and wrong. That is not the picture Jesus wants us to present to the world. Side: will be interesting to see what is heard and read over the next couple of days with Bell’s release. That may be when/if we find what truly wins.

  4. Chris says:

    Hey Charlie. I’ll give two observations that I’ve pondered.

    One. I think the language you use like, fighting, insults, sword, enemy, etc. in describing this current firestorm is way overstated. I don’t go to a ton of blogs, but I do read some of the major players on both sides and but for a tiny percentage, most of what is being written is simply honest, fair disagreement. This is not a bad thing. It’s healthy. It keeps us all honest we can have someone critique us, or tell us where we might be going off the deep end. Granted it’s not always done in private and maybe that would be best but sometimes that’s just not feasible or practical. One well-known blogger stated in a critique of Brian McLaren’s book for example that he would refrain from any ad-homenims or saying anything in his critique that he wouldn’t say sitting across a table from him sharing his favorite beverage. I think that’s fair, don’t you?

    Two. In terms of Bell’s main premise in his book, I do wonder if maybe he should have titled it “Peace Wins”. Which may be the same thing as saying Love Wins, not sure. I see at times in people like Bell or McLaren a view that believes that the most egregious evil can be won over by love and peaceful means. So when MLK and Gandhi advocated for non-violence and received the blows of their tormentors they were actually able to overcome some seriously evil institutions. Even now, I think you could look to the problems in the whole Arab world as an example of how this works. Egypt has had a relatively peaceful revolution, not resorting to violent means for the most part, and as a response the military has chosen not to fire upon the people, and the people seem to be winning. However in Libya it’s been quite different. There the uprising has been of a more violent, militaristic rebellion. And it’s being systematically crushed. A case could be made that a peaceful, non-violent (even loving) response is more effective.

    But sadly it’s not always true. And I don’t even think that this is necessarily what Jesus advocated. No amount of non-violence or loving overtures would have stopped Hitler. Nor Stalin. Nor Pol Pot, nor a whole host of others. It was only violence that stopped Hitler. This is the reality of a fallen world.

    • I definitely didn’t want this post to only be about the Rob Bell situation. I definitely read some fightin’ words from both sides.

      I can get on board with not saying anything you wouldn’t say to their face – that seems like basic common courtesy, and I think we’d make a lot more progress if “rules” like that were used. I dare even say some of the dividing lines wouldn’t seem so divisive.

      I definitely agree that a more peaceful approach is also more effective – those are great examples. Granted it’s not nearly as swift or statement-making, at least immediately, but these sorts of things can’t be about instant gratification or it doesn’t work.

      And if I’m honest you make a fair point about Hitler – it messes with my ideology quite a bit but I do think it could be true. Kind of sucks.

  5. Su says:

    Well said. If we’re doing things just like the world does, is there really any difference between Christians and non-Christians?

  6. I will respond to comments in a few hours, but I wanted that I just discovered Rachel Held Evans wrote a post with a nearly identical theme yesterday: http://rachelheldevans.com/love-wins-in-me

  7. Ike says:

    OK….I’ll throw the bomb. We are to contend for the faith. We are to practice discernment & apologetics. That’s the role of the local church….to expose heresy and false doctrine and point to truth. One only has to read thru the gospels to see how Jesus handled those “teachers” that were spreading false doctrine. Paul publically confronted Peter……

    Also…..isn’t it interesting that God could “NOT” save His people with His “love” only. The very One who deserved His love…..the One who knew no sin….suffered the wrath of His Father. The wrath that “we” deserved. It took more than nails and a crown of thorns to save us. I’m not minimizing the physical suffering of our Saviour……but God the Father had to pour out His holy- righteous- wrath upon His Son……and kill Him. And the frightening thing is: “only a “few” will be saved. Go to Mathew chapter 7. Not every one who calls Me Lord, Lord”. He isn’t talking about muslims or jews or buddists or athiests. He is saying.. that of all the people who profess to know Him…..only a “few” are genuine.

    It is a good thing… that all of us examine ourselves. Go to 1John and take the test. Better now than later.

    I’m open for rebuke.

    • Jeff says:

      There is no rebuke Ike. You are free to believe whatever you want. Whatever makes you feel good is good with me.

      • Ike says:

        I didn’t say.. what I said.. because it makes me feel good. And I want to believe the truth…..not, to just believe what I want to. I’m not sure how to take your comment. One thing I do know….your “best” friend in life….tells you the most truth. I really do want to know the truth.

        The more I study Scripture…..the more I realize how little I really know.

      • Ike – that wasn’t a bomb for me. Sounds like I could have clarified in my post – I’m not against discernment and apologetics – what I was trying to point out is that when we fight dirty we violate the message of Jesus. this means we we need to learn how to debate and “argue” in an entirely different manner.

  8. Larry Hughes says:

    If I can’t have peace, I will go to war to attain peace. Naturally one will prefer peace but at some point one has to stand up and defend their ideals if they are right.

    However, when it comes to religion, it seems there is no peace but wars. One belief declares war on the infidels. Another belief declares war on the infidel haters. If you think about it, wars between faiths has been going on since before Adam and Eve ( I think). Just today it is a bit more subtle but still a war of sorts.

    Then you have the bickering and back stabbing between whos religion is the right one and what ever. Even the apostles bickered between their selves who was Jesus’ favored one.

    Debate is a good thing. It does bring up arguments that can be put in a positive mode if handled corrrectly and all the facts are truthful. Sadly that is not all the time the case.

    Just give me peace and don’t step on my beliefs as long a they line up with the scriptures. Otherwise it might incite a war.

    • the catch in all this is to not declare war on the heresy hunters or declare war on the people who fight dirty – that’s just the same old thing. I agree debate can be a great thing – we just aren’t good ad doing it well and constructively.

      • David says:

        Philippians 3:15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.

  9. Jeff says:

    What if they line up with Bhudda. Will you give them peace? And not step on their beliefs?

  10. Darius says:

    Didn’t Jesus say that He didn’t come to bring peace but a sword? That He would make families break apart and turn friends into enemies. His is a violent Kingdom that offers personal spiritual peace but social and familial unrest… at least, until everything has been put under His feet.

    • What do you mean by a violent kingdom? that’s the opposite of my understanding. that verse of course sounds violent, and though I’m rarely certain this time I am that Jesus was not referring to physical violence. I really do think he was talking about the polarization his message can inspire.

      • Darius says:

        I didn’t mean physical violence, though sometimes that is the result. I think Jesus meant that he came to divide, not unite. Well, I should caveat that. He came to unite HIS people, but divide them from everyone else. His message is hard and the purpose of it wasn’t to unite first, but to cause repentance first, then unity among those willing to repent and turn to Him. Peaceful unity isn’t a good in itself. It depends on what the unity is based on that makes it good or bad. Unity around truth is good. Unity around killing another race is bad. Sometimes it seems like unity is held up as this ultimate good. I think that’s where we get into trouble because then adhering to the Bible becomes secondary.

      • thanks for the clarification. I can understand the unite his people and divide them from everyone else, but at the same time isn’t the ultimate goal to draw all people to Jesus? It would seem dividing isn’t the way to do that. Of course our love and grace separate us naturally from how most of the world operates, and yet this is also the same thing that draws them in.

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