Your social media feed is probably filled with examples of the latest person who has been “cancelled” because of something they said years ago or an unpopular position they recently expressed. Being cancelled is a weapon powerful enough to prompt teens to take their own lives and to silence men and women on issues that truly matter to them. Everything that happens within the larger culture also has an impact on the people of God. Cancel culture is certainly no exception.
There are a lot of things happening around us that break my heart. At the top of that list is how Christian brothers and sisters treat one another because of their disagreements. Both in private friendships and on public forums, Christians are tearing one another down. Authors and podcasters cherry-pick statements from other Christian leaders to prove a point or elevate their own platforms. Lifelong friends no longer speak because of which candidate they voted for. Church members have abandoned their congregations because of mask requirements or the lack of them.
If our circle of friends can only include people who agree with us on vaccines, politics, social justice, the role of women, and the finer points of theology, we are completely neglecting the most important thing to our Lord Jesus Christ: Christian love and unity.
Yes, there is time to disagree and to vigorously dialogue. But how we love each other through discussion and debate is far more critical than determining who is “on the right side of history.”
If you look close enough, you will find significant disagreement with practically everyone you know. Paul acknowledged this. Throughout his letters, he gave general and specific instruction on how to address sharp disagreements within the family of God.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends upon you, be at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18 NIV)
“...stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel...” (Philippians 1:27 NIV)
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” (2 Timothy 2:24 NIV)
“If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15 NIV)
We can and must love brothers and sisters with whom we sharply disagree. According to Jesus, how we treat each other is even more important than our deeply held convictions: They will know you are my disciples by how you love one another.
To live this out, we can intentionally engage in ways that are actually countercultural. Here are a few practical ideas:
Be genuinely curious about why a fellow Christian might see an issue from a different perspective. Talk to a Christian who experiences same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria and ask about their experience in the church. Seek out someone who has a different perspective on racial issues or politics. You might strike up a friendship with someone who comes from a very different theological orientation and learn about their convictions and view of God. Showing concern and compassion does not mean compromising what you believe.
One day it dawned on me, “I bet I’ll get to heaven and find out that I was wrong about some things. The problem is, I’m not sure which things I’m wrong about.” We need other members of the body of Christ around us to bring balance and wisdom to our own limited perspective. When you talk with other believers, don’t immediately write them off as wrong when you encounter differences. Iron sharpens iron through loving and authentic conversation.
We have thousands of churches and ministries that employ the word “grace” in their name, yet Christians can be among the least gracious people. Would the people with whom you disagree describe you as gracious? Gracious people give others the benefit of the doubt. They remember that we are all on a journey of maturity. The most mature Christians are not the ones with the most knowledge, but those with the deepest love and affection for their brothers and sisters.
When I find myself digging into a position, it is usually because of fear. I feel like I need to defend the truth — and even defend Jesus. Jesus never asked me to defend Him. He called me to become like Him. There is only one way to do that — by spending time in worship. One of my favorite books by Linda Dillow is “Satisfy My Thirsty Soul'' because in it, chapter by chapter, she taught me how to find intimacy with Him through worship. At His feet is where we’ll find rest in knowing that God is greater than our differences.
We live in a culture that is hyper-focused on individualism. This has influenced our western understanding of Christianity. God’s work is not primarily through a person, but through His Body. You are not the Bride of Christ; we, as a people unified in Him, are His Bride. The story of the Bible is not about you or me. It’s about Him.
Resisting the destructive times in which we live is not just about standing on truth, but also about refusing to engage in the spirit of the world… a spirit that bullies, cancels, and slanders.
To a watching world, how we listen and how we love will be even more powerful than what we say.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash