Jesus and Paul both knew that our orthopraxy (how we live unto God) would look totally different based on all the divergent cultures and thus gave us permission to have a long leash on what was acceptable and a very short leash on what we should focus on. And if you allow for an accommodating, generous orthopraxy, you have to also allow for some generous, accommodating, permissive orthodoxy.
The unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace means you may not agree with Rob Bell on issues of heaven or hell, and you may think Oprah is the second coming of Beelzebub, but if Rob says he has put his faith in Jesus, then end of discussion—at least end of judgmental discussions about where he stands with God. You may have all the discussion you like about his theology, but fighting for unity means you fight the urge to judge on anything other than Jesus, the cross, and someone's faith in him. And even then you can't judge because you really never know where someone stands or will stand five years in the future.
I've found out the hard way that whenever I draw a conclusion about someone's beliefs, I also assume those beliefs are constant. But people change, and since God is always at work in a person's life, I have no right to judge where they will be a month, year, or decade from now. We are all in process, so unity calls for prayer over those we disagree with, not nasty Facebook posts.
Oh, how this would change the world if we really believed what Jesus believes about people and how to approach them. We must altogether stop making pronouncements; we must stop publishing our stance; we must stop calling out people we don't agree with; and we must, at all cost, say to anyone who puts his faith in Jesus that we are all a part of one big, weird, wacko family of ruffians. And when we do, the world might judge us as finally worthy to hand out with.
—Hugh Halter is the founder of Missio and the U.S. Director of Forge America. This article is adapted from Brimstone: The Art and Act of Holy Nonjudgment; © 2015 Hugh Halter. Brimstone: The Art and Act of Holy Nonjudgment is published by David C Cook. All rights reserved.
- Even within a single congregation where there is more similarity in beliefs, there will always be disagreement. How do your small-group members respond to disagreements with others within the church?
- Many Christians use Facebook (and other social media) as a way to take a stand, speak angrily, and judge others. Why might they feel justified in their actions? Why might this be an issue?
- How might small-group leaders encourage people to think before they post on social media? How might church leaders disciple people in their social media use?
- How might you encourage your group members to seek unity with other believers, even if they don't agree on every aspect of Scripture?