A couple months ago I was chatting with a writer friend about our respective ministries, when she asked me a question I wasn’t prepared for:
“I’ve noticed you’ve been distancing yourself from _________ ministry. Has that been intentional?”
(For my own reasons, I’m going to leave all ministries and people anonymous in this post.)
I paused for a moment and tried to figure out the best response. The truth was, I had been distancing myself. That ministry was not only polarizing, but I sometimes disagreed with its positions. I didn’t want to be associated with their divisiveness, not even loosely.
Now, I think it’s fair to keep a safe distance from people who are constantly starting fires. Proverbs 6:27 affirms this wisdom. But the ministry in question wasn’t the only one from which I’d drawn back. Throughout the last year or two I had gradually pulled away from numerous ministries and people who I perceived to be controversial.
Practically speaking, my distancing had played out in one of two ways:
First, I wouldn’t write for them.
Second, I wouldn’t tweet support of them.
In my opinion, the first practice is totally justified. I have to be a good steward of my writing, so it’s important to think carefully about the platforms I choose.
However I can’t say the same about the second practice, and that’s the one I’ve felt enormous conviction about.
Let me give you an example of what I mean:
One day I was scanning my Twitter feed when I noticed a tweet that was just awesome. It encouraged me, and I knew it would encourage my followers. But because the author was controversial, and because he shared slightly different views from my own, I didn’t re-tweet it. I agonized over it and ultimately conclude that, in spite of our commonality, it wasn’t worth associating with them. Our differences mattered more than our unity.
In case you’re wondering who I’m referring to, let me be clear–I’ve distanced myself from liberal and conservative groups alike. There is no single group that has made me especially reluctant. Both sides have their own lightning rods, and I’ve backed away from both.
But lately I’ve become convicted about my behavior. In Philippians 1, Paul is under house arrest while fellow Christians delighted in his persecution. We do not know the details of their story, but for whatever reason they proclaimed Christ “out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.” (v. 17)
How does Paul respond to these mean-spirited preachers of the gospel? In the most humble, Christ exalting way possible:
What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. (v. 18)
We don’t see much of this attitude exemplified in evangelicalism today. Certainly not on blogs or the Twitter sphere. More often than not, our differences define us, making it difficult–if not impossible–to celebrate one another’s contributions to the church.
In view of Paul’s witness, and the identity I hold as a member of Christ’s church, I’ve realized that my behavior is wrong. Even sin. And that’s why I’m declaring today, loud and clear, that I’m done with it. I’m not doing it anymore. It’s not biblical, and it’s not godly. I’m done distancing myself from other Christians for fear of what others might think.
I will continue to be discerning about where I publish my writing, but please hear this:
If I promote another Christian’s writing, or re-tweet another Christian’s words, a Christian you disagree with or even dislike, please don’t interpret my endorsement as more than it is. I don’t have to agree with EVERYTHING a person stands for in order to recognize when the Holy Spirit has spoken through him or her. I can affirm the things we hold in common without affirming it all. In fact, I hope for the same gracious support of Christians who disagree with me.
So I repent of playing that game, which is nothing more than the age old fear of man. It was wrong, I am sorry, and I will try to do better. Because I love the church. I love her diversity. I love the mysterious ways that God moves through her. And it’s time I start acting like it.
I love this perspective, Sharon. Thank you for a great reminder.
I think this is a very helpful post. Too often, we can be quick to dismiss something solely because of the source. While we do need to exercise wisdom, we also need to make sure we do not commit the genetic fallacy. I have always found Paul’s words in Philippians 1 both helpful and convicting in this regard.
I praise God that we do not have to agree on everything in order to find areas of common grace and universal truth.
I observed this recently on the blog of a prominent Canadian blogger. He blogged about the Strange Fire (cessationist) conference, then a week or two later linked to a wonderful work by one of the non-cessationists who spoke out against the Strange Fire conference. I was reminded that all truth is God’s truth, and that just as the apostles did not always see eye to eye, we in 2013 won’t always see eye to eye. As long as the glory of God is at the forefront of our minds, it’s okay to disagree (politely and gently) with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
” I’m done distancing myself from other Christians for fear of what others might think.” Thanks for the call to action, Sharon, and thanks for doing it in one of the most peace-filled ways I’ve ever seen.
This was good, Sharon. I wrestle with this as well.
Lately I have been trying to do the opposite. Find things by people I don’t traditionally agree with that I can rt and resist rt the thing that I normally want to rt but that can be devisive.