We need to talk, James Toews urges in his letter on page 5. I think he’s on to something. More specifically, we need to listen – to those with whom we don’t agree.
The MB church has always been diverse in theological perspectives, but it’s starting to seem downright polarized. Throughout our history, we have generally recognized a spectrum of perspectives on what it means to be an evangelical Anabaptist; now, instead of sharing a big tent, we seem to have pitched our own shelters. I’m not sure we’re spending enough time understanding and appreciating those who gather at the other campfires.
In this issue, the Board of Faith and Life looks at sexuality, asking what is God’s intent for his holy and set-apart people in the midst of an “anything-goes” society. Jesus followers put aside our own desires, replacing them with obedience to God’s call, Willy Reimer writes. Despite our differences, he says, there’s no place for “us” and “them” language.
Why, then, do we speak that way about our own brothers and sisters in the conference?
We want to extend love to those who experience sexuality differently from our “norms” – but we don’t even get along with MBs in the next church. Can we be helpful companions on a journey toward wholeness when we aren’t reconciled to our brothers and sisters?
Could we admit that even though Jesus is right, sometimes – even as faithful followers – we are not?
In a time of uncertainty, it’s easier to avoid the questions and focus on that which we know. To let fear shutter our perspective. To identify and shun “enemies” rather than find ways to become allies. But Jesus hasn’t called us to an easy path.
In the Bible, there are warnings to be careful of false teachers, but there are also times when the New Testament writers say it doesn’t matter what flag people are flying as long as Jesus is glorified.
“Don’t stop him!” Jesus tells John when he’s concerned someone else is performing miracles in Jesus’ name. “Anyone who is not against you is for you” (Luke 9:50, NLT).
Our Confession of Faith says, “Christians cooperate with others in society to defend the weak, care for the poor, and promote justice, righteousness and truth.”
The jewel of the gospel is that we are reconciled with God through Christ’s atoning work; the beauty of the gospel carries that reconciliation into all spheres of creation. We can work with those who also want to see shalom on earth, whether they use the term or not. We might find reflections of the image of God in surprising places.
Not forgetting that Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and pick up our cross, might we also remember that “LORD, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you” (Psalm 130:3–4).
As we raise difficult issues and try to talk about things like sexual sin, we’re quick to admit that we’re all broken. In fact, we fail to reflect Jesus’ holiness in many ways besides the sexual prohibitions we spend so much energy on. Our image contains selfish individualism, consumerism, environment devastation, capitalist exploitation, power abuses of more subtle varieties, and the list goes on.
However, the good news isn’t that we’re fallen, but that we’re made in God’s image in all our diversity. He has a (sometimes painful) path for us to develop into a better reflection of him, reducing the distortions of sin that we each must struggle with.
Instead of drawing the circle tighter, let’s open the doors wider. As we walk our own paths of learning to fear God, let’s come alongside those we disagree with. What we thought were their distortions might just have something to teach us about our own.