Sunday, March 8, 2009

His ways are not my ways

I've been pondering our relationship to other Christians lately, since the "War and Peace" symposium elicited some interesting and challenging questions to me personally. When it came to me and Steve Matheson, the questions basically boil down to, "How can you, an avowed creationist, get along with someone who so firmly believes in evolution?" (Not only that, but he's really into baseball, and I don't care about baseball at all. Differences abound!)

So if getting along with an "evolutionary creationist" is frowned on, how should I treat other Christians who deeply disagree with me? Well, that's a difficult question. Certainly fellow Christians deserve some kind of respect or - dare I say - Christian love. On the other hand, what do we do with Christians who take doctrinal positions that we perceive to be silly or even dangerous? I wish I knew.

As I meditate on this problem, my mind returns to this passage in Mark:
He appointed the Twelve: To Simon, He gave the name Peter; and to James the son of Zebedee, and to his brother John, He gave the name "Boanerges" (that is, "Sons of Thunder"); Andrew; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. (Mark 3:16-19, HCSB)

If I were choosing people to carry on my legacy, I would try to get as many like-minded folks as I could. That's something I think about as I try to put the BSG on a good footing: Find people who have an interest and passion in real creationist research.

Then there's Jesus' choices. James and John, the sons of thunder. Why do you suppose they were the sons of "thunder?" Considering the little incident with their mother (Matt. 20:20-28), I suspect these two were at the root of the ongoing arguments about who was the best disciple. Argumentative and competitive? I could see how that would be thunderous.

Matthew and Simon the Zealot. As I understand it, the zealots were the Jewish nationalists of the first century. Tax collectors like Matthew were despised as Roman collaborators. I don't see them getting along very well.

The list of the Twelve closes with the chilling "Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him." Jesus knew what was coming, but He chose Judas, too.

His ways really aren't my ways. I can't imagine how anyone could get anything done with such a divisive, bickering group of guys. But there they are, and thank God for them, because here I am. I came to believe through their testimony. Jesus' strategy really worked.

Here's another passage that nags at me: John (one of the sons of thunder) recorded for us the Lord's real prayer, in Gethsemane the night before He was crucified. In that prayer, He prays for those who would believe because of the testimony of the apostles, and He prays for this:
May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. (John 17:21, HCSB)

He doesn't pray for doctrinal perfection, slavish devotion to certain styles of worship, or even that we'll use the "correct" translation of the Bible. He prays that we will be one.

Don't get me wrong, in my own human weakness, I'm not a big fan of this idea. I'm like the rest of you: Let's not get too cozy with people who believe wrong doctrines. I'm also not entirely sure how I could possibly implement this. Most Christians in this creation/evolution debate tend to be so smug and sure about their positions. How in the world can such people get along?

I honestly don't know, but I do know that this was basically Jesus' dying wish: "May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You." Perhaps we should stop looking at our differences and look to Him to help us? Couldn't hurt.

Maybe that's one reason Steve and I get along as well as we do. Perhaps we recognize in each other the risen Christ. Or maybe it's even simpler, maybe Christ's presence just overwhelms us as we come together in His name.

However it works, I'm glad it does. Maybe Steve and I are a glimpse of what the debate could be like. We humbly recognize our strengths and weaknesses without changing our own positions, and we're challenged to work harder to bring our theology and science closer to the truth. And in the meantime, we can actually enjoy each other's company.

Crazy? Sure, but that's what they said about Jesus.