Enough: Cultural War is Tearing the Church Apart

One of my favorite songs we often sing at church is “They’ll Know We are Christians By Our Love.” It was written by Peter Scholtes and describes the church’s mission to share the love of Jesus Christ.

This verse of the song is quite powerful.

We will walk with each other, We will walk hand in hand,

We will walk with each other, We will walk hand in hand,

And together we’ll spread the news that God is in the land.

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love,

Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

What saddens is me is how often we do not live out these words. Often what we share with the world is the message that we will only walk with each other as long as we share beliefs, practices, and understandings of faith, and that we will not walk with those who disagree with us.

Our inability to “walk with each other” is defining our mission and identity today. It is also tearing the church apart. We are becoming more and more defined by our willingness to fight the cultural war than we are about sharing the love of Jesus Christ with those who are hurting and in need of hope. I do not believe this is what Jesus desires for us.

The fact we would rather fight the cultural war than share the message of Jesus Christ was apparent, this week, with the news that World Vision, a Christian organization that focuses on helping children in poverty, would begin hiring Christians who are in gay marriages. Immediately the battle lines were drawn along the typical battle lines. On the right, you have Christians arguing that World Vision was weakening its principles and faith. On the left, especially after World Vision opted to reverse its decision, you have Christians arguing that World Vision abandoned those who desire to help.

It is not worth in this space to determine the validity of either argument. To do so would only continue to foster battles that do not need to be waged in today’s mission field.

In all honesty, World Vision was the latest in a long line of battle fronts between Christians on the right and left who are more interested in yelling at each other than communicating with one another. Whether it is World Vision, partisan politics, Bible translations, environmental concerns, or gay rights, Christians on the left and right have become all too familiar with using social media and other forms of communication to denounce the views of the other instead of trying to discern God’s desire in these areas. This becomes problematic when we recognize that those who are leading these efforts often believe that God is truly on their side.

When this is what defines our outreach and mission into the world, it should not surprise us that the church in the United States is in decline. Membership is down. Giving is down. Churches are closing. There are many reasons for this, to be sure. However, I believe part of the reason for this decline is that if we cannot seem to get along with other then we cannot be all that surprised that a non-Christian would not want to join us.

Our thirst to wage the cultural war is tearing the church apart and prevents us from sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in love with others. As long as we are more interested in fighting battles that do not need fighting we will continue to see the church reduced to irrelevancy in the lives of many.

It is up to us, as leaders in the church, to say, “Enough!” We must lead the church to put down our weapons of battle and find a place around the table of fellowship. We must stop yelling at each other and talk with each other. Only until we learn to communicate with each other will we be able to learn from each other and, as well, seek God’s desire on each of these issues. When that happens, I believe, we will see the church become more committed to its mission of “making disciples of all people in the name of Jesus Christ.”

There are important things for the church to be concerned about. Whether or not we are wining the cultural war should not be one of them.

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