Fighting About Jesus

Okay, here’s the scenario: two groups of people are passionate about what they believe. They are convinced, perhaps rightly so, that the opposite ideology will lead their group into ruin and chaos. They are so convinced of this that they are willing to do anything to make sure that their side wins, that their opinion is preserved as the only right way.

Unfortunately, they are uncertain if their side will win. In fact, it’s beginning to look as though they might not win. Even though they provide sound arguments for why they are right, the tide isn’t turning. They are becoming desperate…because after all, the stability, longevity and existence of their organization weighs in the balance on this one decision. The importance of the discussion gives them the freedom to step outside the boundaries of rational argument in order to engage in a more powerful strategy.

They start a campaign to vilify their opponents. They make personal attacks on their character and intelligence. They start rumors about the opposition’s motives. By innuendo and persuasive speech, they turn the decision from a discussion of the facts to a campaign of mudslinging and character assassination. Ultimately, the whole situation ends in a huge mess.

Sounds like a modern political campaign, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s based on an argument among Christians in the 3rd and 4th centuries concerning the nature of Christ.

Is a clear understanding about the nature of Christ important? Of course it is! It’s vitally important! Our salvation and our existence as Christians rests on it. But is it just me or does it seem depressingly ironic that Christians berate, defame, disparage and malign each other? Isn’t it terrible that in a discussion about the nature of Jesus, Christians excommunicate each other, exile each other, persecute each other, even murder each other? How can it be?

Well, we continue to do the same thing. We may not be arguing about the nature of Christ and we may not persecute and murder people who disagree with us, but we certainly vilify them, malign them, berate them, disparage them. We treat each other with contempt because our views of predestination or security or holiness are different. Then we wonder why the watching world doesn’t want to have anything to do with Jesus.

Christians are going to disagree. We shouldn’t feel pressure to think the same or to compromise our core beliefs when we disagree. Nevertheless, somewhere in the process we must realize that our highest calling is not right theology but righteous living. We are Christians not because we believe right but because we are Christlike. There is a place for discussion of ideas—even arguments—about our differing opinions about those ideas, but in every discussion we can disagree in a spirit of civility, we can argue respectfully, we can go our separate ways as brothers and sisters in Christ. Our goal is not so much to win but to be more like Christ.