The word “love” is seeing a lot of use lately. Free love, love will win, love trumps hate, and so forth. The modern interpretation of love carries with it connotations of permissiveness, acceptance, and entitlement. The thought seems to be that people should be free to love whoever and however they want, that if you love someone you will let them do whatever they want, and that if someone loves you they will treat you how you want to be treated. Much of this is patently false and a lot of time could be spent going in depth on this but our concern is that there is a much more significant problem dealing with love in our world today. The real problem is how followers of Christ treat each other.
If there was one group of people who everyone should be able to look to as role models for how to love it should be the those who have acknowledged Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Not in the “God doesn’t care if I do X because God is love” or “God won’t send people to hell because God is love” or whatever else falls into that rhetoric but in the example of love displayed in Jesus’ life. Jesus called people to repentance and confronted sin and culture in a way described by an awesome phrase we’ve heard, “grace to the humble and the law to the proud.” There seems to be a disconnect between how Jesus lived and treated others versus how those who claim to follow Him act. Why is the dichotomy so distinct?
We believe there is two major factors that are causing so much discord with believers. First and foremost is the modern church, both how it carries itself and how it is perceived by others. The second issue is the rule of opinion and emotion over Scripture and is more than likely a direct result of the condition of the church. These two factors complicated by the growing number of political, cultural, and global points of conflict are being used by the Adversary to “divide and conquer” as he understands a house divided cannot stand (Mark 3:25). We are going to look into the issues of the modern church this week and finish out the rest next week.
When we refer to churches we are referring specifically to those churches that adhere to the totality of Scriptures as the inerrant Word of God. Churches that follow the same belief will still have differences in how they operate and if they are abiding in the Truth of the revealed Word of God that is perfectly fine and necessary. Good pastors know their congregation and can address issues that they are facing as God directs them. A church in Asia undergoing persecution may well need a different message than a church here in the U.S.A. that is struggling with the strong worldly influence with its youth. Where the church, in general, comes into the equation in the divisiveness of believers is in the increase of watered down preaching. Popularity and attendance have taken greater importance than in preaching the whole Word of God. “Feel good” messages of tolerance and blessings and love go over better than calling sinners to repentance, confronting wickedness in the community, and warning people of the dangers of hell and the separation from God that comes from rejecting Him.
The weak position of these churches plays a part in this discord because of the lack of consistency in the teachings of the Bible. Someone from a church that takes a minimal or non-existent stance on issues such as abortion, creation, repentance, and judgment will have conflict with believers from a church that does put forth a solid Biblical stance on these issues. Even if there is no maliciousness in the ensuing conflict these interactions can take place in public spheres such as social media or by sidewalk counselors, street preachers, and others trying to reach the world with the truth of the Gospel. These low-intensity conflicts are usually quickly solved with some relevant scripture and generally are not as damaging as the intentional or malicious attacking of fellow believers.
The problem with the contemporary perception of the church is most prominently displayed in an increased number of professing Christians who do not attend church. Some oft-used reasons for the decreased church membership/attendance of believers include weak doctrine, disagreement in leadership style and/or ministry operation, or the belief that church membership is not a requirement. Unfortunately, this issue has severe repercussions both to believers and to the churches. This could (and may be) the subject of a much more in-depth article on the modern church but for regarding this issue leaving a church because they have weak doctrine or don’t address issues you feel they should will only weaken the church body. Bring your concerns to the church and, above all, pray that God will give you and your church guidance and direction in those areas.
Foregoing church attendance also weakens the ability to scrutinize our understanding of the Word of God, weakens accountability with fellow believers, and removes people from church correction/discipline. If we misunderstand Scripture or pick up wrong beliefs it may be difficult to realize that if we refrain from proper teaching of the Bible and from talking with other believers regularly. Accountability and church discipline are two of those important topics that seems to be lacking in church messages in modern times. Accountability in our Christian walk is beneficial for the same reason that exercise and weight loss partners help, they provide encouragement and keep us mindful of our choices. Church correction and discipline are integral to the body of Christ, confronting sin in the congregation rather then just ignoring it and letting it grow and spread. Jesus sets up how to handle a fellow believer who is in sin in Matthew 18 and a key part of that process is the church as shown in verse 17 being the final arbitration of the matter. This is further expounded on in 1 & 2 Corinthians, James, 2 Thessalonians, Titus, Romans, and Galatians. This last issue coupled with the following issue are the most significant contributors to believers in Christ intentionally vilifying and antagonizing fellow believers.
Next week we will finish this article by looking into the second major factor of hostility between believers in Christ so be sure to check back next Monday.