“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you interpret the Bible correctly.”
“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to convince everyone that your way of reading the Bible is the only correct one, as he commanded us.”
The news has been full of last Tuesday’s debate between Bill Nye (the Science Guy) and Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham, founder of the Creation Museum. No matter what your take on the outcome, or where you fall on the creation-evolution continuum, (and it isn’t as black and white as some would have us believe), the whole scenario bothered me. No one was seeking common ground. Rather, it was designed to polarize the audience.
“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” (2 Timothy 2:23)
How many controversial subjects are there among believers? Can we even begin to count them? What seems vitally important to us may seem silly to others, even other believers. We argue over music, Bible translations, and the right way to baptize. We dispute predestination, the rapture, and if we can lose our salvation. We have an amazing ability to disagree with one another. Then we allow that disagreement to divide us to the point where we deride our brothers and sisters, or worse. It’s pathetic. It grieves God. It’s sin.
Jesus prayed for unity among His followers. In fact, He states that this oneness is essential—
“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, italics mine)
If we’re wondering why the world isn’t interested in Christianity, we need take a good look at how we argue over nonessentials. You need only read the comments posted to articles on the debate to see how our Bible-thumping and arrogant hubris turn people away from God. Arguing gets us nowhere. How many people do you know who were converted because they lost an argument?
Jesus may have prayed for unity, but that prayer has yet to be answered. Even in the earliest days of the church, there were divisions. Paul repeatedly wrote to the various churches to be forgiving, humble, most of all loving. (See 1 Corinthians 1:11-13, Ephesians 4:2-4, and Colossians 3:13-15 for starters.) The existence of over 1,500 different denominations in the U.S. alone tells us that nothing much has changed.
Let’s go back to those two “passages” I started with. Here are the actual verses:
“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” 1 John 3:23
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35
It’s fine to have our various opinions and interpretations of Scripture. The problem comes when we allow those differences to override our love for one another. We start making fun of the losers who don’t agree with us. We call them nasty names while we arrogantly boast of our superior insight.
Unbelievers don’t want anything to do with us—or our God.
Think of what a difference the church could make is we redirected all the time and resources we spend proving that our version of the faith is the right one, and focused instead on loving people. Isn’t that what Jesus told us to do in the first place?