5 Things We (Might) All Be Able to Agree On
This week there was a bit of a flare in tensions as Rachel Held Evans called out the leadership of The Nines conference for gender inequality. This set off a storm of blog posts and social media activity–both defending Evans’ position and raising issues with it or the way she went about engaging.
There were two primary (sub)texts in the online battle. People who took issue with Evans claimed she was promoting disunity within the larger church and hurting the witness of the church by her approach to the situation. Evans responded by stating that those claiming these things were people with power and that this was merely a way of stifling an oppressed minority. Both of those propositions seem to do a good job of “sticking it to” the other side. After all, Jesus did talk passionately about both unity and oppression.
I’m not sure why but this debate has burdened me this week. I think part of it is knowing many people are (and many more feel) hindered in using their God-given gifts. It also has something to do with wishing we could interact better about some of these things–as Evans herself says, tone is very important. But in the midst of this I thought I’d focus on some things we (might) all be able to agree on relating to how we interact.
1. Tone matters. I can say to my children, “Kids, come here.” If I yell it they will hear something completely different than if I say it with kindness in my voice. It seems to me that too often on these issues we are not only debating (or even arguing) but trying to put the other in their place with our tone or sarcasm. I wish even our fighting was filled with love for the other person. This would be an actual witness to the power of the kingdom of God.
2. We have a hard time seeing the perspective of the other. Especially on difficult issues, we get riled up about our own position (because we are right) but seldom take time to work at understanding the position of the other. We’d all be served well by spending more time seeking understanding (even if we’re still right at the end).
3. Everybody can use the Bible as a weapon. Case in point: unity and relief of oppression are both important biblical themes. We tend to lead with the parts of Scripture that will uphold our position while downplaying the legitimacy of those that will uphold the thoughts of those we disagree with. (I wish I could say I’ve never done this. Then you’d just quote some verse about lying.)
4. Grace is hard. I am easily riled up by people I disagree with. I usually don’t respond in a public way (who would care if I did?!), but I admit that my first reaction to those I disagree with is not to try and think the best of them–to extend them the grace that I’d want to be extended. Where there is significant and important disagreement grace is just hard. (But I’m pretty sure it’s worth pursuing.)
5. We’re all in process. Many of the conversations that are happening (like the one about women in Christian leadership) are very important. It’s good that the debates are being had. Part of my hope is knowing that everyone who claims Jesus as King is in process. There are so many perspectives I have changed in my lifetime, and I’m sure there will be many more. We need to keep talking because it’s one of the ways that the Holy Spirit continues the work of transformation that will be completed some day in the presence of Jesus. We are all people in process.