In this post-Christian world, our theology is on display in everything that we do and say. Take, for example, the attic door that was swinging from a broken hinge at the Butterfield house on Wednesday, November 9, 2016, and Phil, the neighborhood handyman who came to fix it. When Phil answered my call to take a small job, I welcomed him in, pointed out the attic door, made sure that he knew the coffee in the pot was his to finish, and then returned to homeschool my children.
But then I heard it. Someone was crying.
Phil was in tears. He had finished the job, and was sitting in my kitchen, head buried in calloused hands, sobbing. I asked why and it all tumbled out: Christians are dangerous people, and this past election proved it. How could we move forward as friends if we don’t agree on basic values? How could I believe the things I do?
Phil and I have been neighbors for years. We go to the same barbecues and funerals and block parties. We have borrowed dog crates, returned children’s bikes, and shared iris bulbs. But then, the day after we went to the polls, the lines were drawn. Phil’s question was key: Can we trust people who do not share our worldview? Where do we go from here? How can the gospel travel when we can’t even talk with each other?
I pulled up a stool at the kitchen table and we cried together. Sometimes a divided world is worthy of a good cry.
In these times of polarizing incivility, it is tempting to soften the hard edges of faith, to fear our failing public opinion and our impending ill repute, to redraw the lines given by God so that we neither love nor speak with gospel boldness. It is tempting to try to “balance” grace and truth.
Many criticize faithful confessional churches and their pastors and elders, embarrassed that they do not prostrate themselves to the twin idols of today’s culture: sexual orientation (the belief that your sexual desire encompasses who you really, ontologically, are) and intersectionality (the belief that who you really are is measured by how many victim statuses you can claim, with human dignity only accruing through the intolerance of disagreement of any kind). What ought we to do?
We can learn from the early church, which in the second century faced opposition on two fronts: persecution from without and false teaching from within.