“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
Yesterday during the graduation dinner, Ray and I had one of our perennial debates. We discussed (rather lively!) our views of evangelism- its purpose and method. We went around and around debating the effectiveness and appropriateness of street ministry as opposed to one-on-one personal evangelism. We agreed that the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but nevertheless landed at different comfort levels on the spectrum of evangelistic methods. When we were done, we still disagreed… then ate some pie!
Our society has largely lost the ability to disagree amicably. If you haven’t noticed, we live in very polarizing times. People yell over each other, disagreements are taken personal, and the slightest differences are an affront to opposing parties. In such polemical times, the world desperately needs to see Christian brothers disagree… over pie! One of my favorite quotes is attributed to St. Augustine: “In essentials, unity; In non-essentials, liberty; In all things, charity.” While Ray and I agree that evangelism is an essential, the particular or preferred method is a non-essential. These conversations are how “iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Prov 27:17). I am thankful for faithful brothers and friends like Ray who think differently than I do about matters. It causes me to think through my own positions and to stretch and grow. This is good and this is biblical.
Our historic creeds and confessions help us to clearly identify what are “essentials” and what are “non-essentials.” A healthy church doesn’t demand 100% unanimity on every issue. Actually, it’s quite the opposite! A healthy church will promote the diversity of its membership, the unique perspective of the individual, and the spiritual gifting of the body. It is a sign of Christ-like maturity when a church is able to discern between the essentials and non-essentials and isn’t threatened by a diversity of thought. When a church is able to unite around orthodoxy despite their varying backgrounds and perspectives, there you find a thriving, healthy body.
In short, it’s ok to disagree sometimes. I’ve been married for 15 years this summer and I can tell you that my wife and I disagree… A LOT (I know, I should just listen to her!). But we stay together because our relationship is grounded in something deeper than our arguments. We agree that the Word is our ultimate authority, we believe that marriage is a life-long covenant, we believe that Jesus is to be glorified in our home. Or, to put it another way, we are united around the essentials. As it regards the church, God has brought us together- with all of our uniqueness, with all of our giftedness, and with all of our convictions. So, let’s celebrate this diversity and “sharpen one another…” preferably over pie.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Matthew S. Rickett