By Beth Demme
“They are the problem. Not me,” I said, completely unaware of how sanctimonious and unfriendly I sounded.
“They don’t seem to know how to express the love of God.” I went on, still unaware of the growing plank in my eye.
“Some Christians are just closed-minded and they wrap that mess up in a cloak of false righteousness. What do they think it is, an invisibility cloak? Do they think I can’t see right through it to their ugliness?” I questioned sarcastically, unaware of the stranglehold of my own cloak.
I was on a bit of a rant about Christians who insist their interpretation of the Bible is the correct interpretation and their church doctrine (or lack of it) is the way all churches should think and act.
I was getting worked up about Christians who act as gatekeepers, declaring some people unfit to sit at the feet of Jesus. I went on: “The Apostle Paul urges us to be unified, but he doesn’t stuff us into a uniform, for goodness sake!”
Thankfully, I had chosen my audience well. My husband listened patiently, as he often does, and waited for my diatribe to conclude.
As I vented, a discomfort arose from deep inside me.
Sometimes I pray for clarity, but then I dislike what I see. This was one of those times.
Paul urges us to strive for “unity of the Spirit” and tells us to keep at it “until all of us come to the unity of the faith.” (Ephesians 4:3,13) Paul also recognizes and celebrates our lack of uniformity, comparing the body of Christ to a human body with many different parts. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)
I started with these scriptures celebrating unity rather than uniformity, but my words soon became an unloving tirade.
Paul urges us to maintain unity through “humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.” (Eph. 4:2-3)
Somewhere along the way, I missed those steps.
It’s easy to complain about the mistakes other people in “the church” make, but what about me — have I treated “them” with humility? Gentleness? Patience? Love?
When I was a little girl, I loved to hear my mom and my sister sing — especially when they sang to me, and even more especially when they sang “Little Robin Red Breast.” In the song, I try to shoo away a bird, selfishly keeping all the berries for myself. A wiser voice comes in and invites the little bird back, declaring there is more than enough for everyone. “Come back little Robin, you may have a few. There’s enough for Robin aaaaaaaaand, Beth Mae, too.”
In her most recent book, For The Love, Jen Hatmaker has a chapter called “Dear Christians Please Stop Being Lame.” As I read, I agreed with her, heart and soul. I even agreed with her about who the Lame Christians are.
She writes: “Let’s treat each other well, making space for every sort of ragamuffin. We needn’t mistake unity with uniformity; we can have the first without the second. The breadth of God’s family is mercifully wide.”
Even as I agreed with Jen Hatmaker, I failed to take her advice — I failed to treat others well.
Instead of ranting about the anti-ragamuffin crowd, I need to open my arms wide enough for the ragamuffins and those who would exclude them.
I need to proceed with humility, gentleness, patience, and love.
What about you? How do you treat people who disagree with you? Do you approach disagreement with humility, gentleness, patience, and love? Tell me about it in an e-mail, on Facebook, or on Twitter. As always, I love hearing from you.
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