By Michael C. Mack
As you read this issue, you may not agree with every writer’s viewpoint. Several articles contain debatable issues, and, in one case, we go “In the Arena” on a highly contentious matter: women’s involvement in teaching and leadership in the church.
We believe it’s helpful to provide a forum in which readers can consider both sides of debatable issues. In churches large and small, leaders are discussing these issues, and we hope to provide biblical perspectives from others who have already done the hard work of studying, applying, and even teaching on these matters. I ask each writer to communicate their viewpoint objectively, civilly, and, of course, biblically.
We ask you to do the same as you read and respond.
My concern is this: We tend to dig in and entrench ourselves over issues such as these, thereby dividing ourselves and shutting the door on any opportunity for unity. And while Christian Standard seeks to educate, equip, and inform leaders for kingdom ministry—and discussing these debatable issues is certainly part of that—we are passionate about Christian unity. We believe our movement slogans ring true:
In essentials, unity; in opinions, liberty; in all things, love.
Where the Scriptures speak, we speak. Where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.
Let Christian unity be our polar star.
We can live in Christian unity while disagreeing over matters of opinion. But do we?
Sadly, from a quick review of certain social media pages and websites, the answer is no. But it’s more than an online problem. Last year at a brotherhood conference, I overheard a group of Christians slandering several churches and leaders in our movement over matters of style, practice, and methods. Perhaps I should have stepped in to defend Christ’s bride, to protect the body of Christ from . . . the body of Christ. I didn’t, but the incident saddened me. It left me with the same somber question Paul posed, “Is Christ divided?” (1 Corinthians 1:13).
Too often the answer to that question is yes. Too often Christ’s body enters the ring against itself, wildly punching itself, giving itself a black eye . . . for all the watching world to see . . . over matters of opinion. We fight among ourselves over nonessentials while ignoring our primary call to go and make disciples of all nations.
Yes, we can live in Christian unity while disagreeing over matters of opinion. This is one of those hard disciplines of following Christ—to choose unity in Christ over fighting for one’s position on a matter of opinion, to choose to honor Christ over “being right,” to choose love over the letter of the law.
Does that mean we don’t take a stand for what we believe, even over nonessentials? No. We can speak the truth in love and maintain unity.
Several writers have provided guidelines for how to deal with debatable issues, and one thing they all mention is humility. Any “fix” to this problem must start in our hearts. If you ever find yourself wondering if you cross the line when discussing these issues, I encourage you to read these articles: “How to Debate Debatable Issues: The Art of Godly Disagreement,” by Jon Weatherly; “Civil Liberty: How Christ Frees Us to Be Civil in Less-Than-Civil Times,” by Shawn McMullen; and “How to Have Influence in Dialogue with the Ignorant, the Obstinate, and the Belligerent . . . and with Those Sitting on the Sidelines,” by Michael McCann.
In “The Fortification of the Restoration Movement,” Steve Carr discusses how our greater Restoration Movement has split and then fortified its positions over time. We should learn from the lessons of our past. When we become entrenched over debatable matters, it compromises our message, dims our light, and divides Christ’s body.
Let’s never forget Jesus’ prayer for us: “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:22, 23).
May it be so.