The Mind of the Pastor

A few years ago there were jokes making the rounds and the punchline was always, “…and that’s when the fight started.”  Like, “My wife walked into the den and asked, ‘What’s on the TV?’  I said, ‘Dust,’ and that’s when the fight started.”  Or, “I asked my wife, ‘Where do you want to go for our anniversary?’  She said, ‘Somewhere I haven’t been in a long time.’  So, I suggested the kitchen, and that’s when the fight started.”  Or, “One year a husband bought his mother-in-law a cemetery plot as a Christmas gift.  The next year, he didn’t buy her anything.  When she asked why, he replied, ‘Well, you still haven’t used the gift I gave you last year!’  And that’s when the fight started.”

I laugh at those because they are funny but what’s not so funny is the contentious culture in which we live.  Whether you are talking about family, politics or any other subject, it seems folks will fight at the drop of a hat and they are more than happy to supply the hat!  Lines are drawn ever-sharper.  Camps are becoming increasingly entrenched.  Politically, statesmanship is a lost art.  A spirit of “us against them” rules the day.  Either we are in lock-step agreement, or I can’t have anything to do with you.  Political vitriol seems to have reach new highs or better yet, lows.  It seems many have forgotten that it is possible to have honest disagreements and still respect, honor and love others.  Even within the church, there is a rush to label others as the enemy.  Every variance or difference is seen as a departure from the Faith.  

I’m a Southern Baptist.  This is my home, born and raised within the life of the SBC.  I went to our Baptist University here in in Oklahoma, I graduated from one of our SBC seminaries.  I’ve pastored SBC churches for nearly 40 years.  For 40 years I’ve heard, “This is the most critical convention in the history of our convention.  This vote is the most critical vote in our history.  If this is approved, it will be the end of the SBC as we know it.”  The names have changed, the issues have varied but the rhetoric has remained the same.  Yet, there is something new.  The heat has been turned up and we’ve turned on each other.  I’m old enough to remember real liberals within our convention.  Those who denied the bodily resurrection of our Lord.  Those who denied substitutionary atonement.  Those who denied the infallibility of the Scripture.  Those folks are gone.  But there are those who are not happy unless there is an enemy.  “Fighters gotta fight.”  I’m not saying, “No are no issues to be concerned about.”  I’m not suggesting doctrine doesn’t matter and we should lay it all aside for the sake of the mission.  There are those who say, “It’s not doctrine that holds us together, it is missions.”  But what defines the mission?  Our mission demands the gospel.  What is the gospel?  Doctrine and the mission are not unrelated.

There are issues to be discussed even debated with passion, because, truth matters.  But let’s turn down the heat.  Let’s recognize these are family matters.  Our debate is not with an enemy of the faith but a brother or sister with a different understanding or interpretation.  We may well decide the difference are great enough that we cannot walk together but let’s come to that conclusion through prayerful thought, study and consideration.  If we part, let it be through tears, and without the pronouncement of anathema.  

Doctrine matters.  Contend for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints.  But let’s remember who the real enemy is.  In our striving for doctrinal purity and clarity let’s not destroy our family at a time when we need one another more than ever.  Balance is a good thing.  We don’t have to choose between being a faithful warrior for biblical truth and a lover of souls.  The two go together well.

Have a great week!