He's an older man with a bitter and irritated vibe. He's a stickler for precision and likes to get things in writing so he can call you on it later. The pastors of my church turned down his requests for them to "set things straight" and now, he tells me, he's concerned for my soul.
We've met a handful of times. He's been arguing with a lady from my congregation for almost as long as I've been alive, and now I've been called in to give the "official" position of "my" church. Always happy to discuss things with anyone -- Church of God, Mormon, JW, Scientology, or otherwise -- I appreciate the opportunities to learn new things and grow in my faith. Our time has gone fairly well until he says something so outlandish that I thump the table and yell, "COME ON! You don't even believe that!"
Perhaps not my finest, most gracious moment.
In the fifteen or so hours we'd spent together, we'd been around and around with all kinds of issues. Both the woman from my church and this guy have reams of paper containing notes and diagrams, emails and articles, agreements related to which dictionaries are acceptable and audio recordings of hours of back and forth. Literally. My role, it turned out, was as much mediator between two embattled and embittered neighbors as spokesperson for my brand of Christianity.
He believes things more extreme than I am comfortable with and with more certainty than I find healthy. But, to me, he's a brother, agreeing that connection with Christ is what saves us. His view of me is pointedly less open.
Not that long ago in a country not that far away, Protestants and Catholics killed each other in the streets for about three decades. But in my neck of the woods, both locally and internetally, I'm seeing more and more people agree to disagree with those on the other side of the Reformation fence. I love Kris's story about how learning to pray saved her faith.* I've seen several other posts lately -- like Brianna's "gift of evangelicalism" -- that talk about the benefits of "the other side" even while firmly affirming the beauty of their current ecumenical take. And it's not just ex-Protestants. A handful of my friends come from a Catholic background and still attend Mass from time to time, finding beauty and solace there in a way not available in their current church home.
This makes me so happy. I love seeing the Body of Christ knit together in unity.
This morning, as I read through The Kingdom Strikes Back -- part of your 6th Grade homeschool curriculum -- I was thrilled to see God's work in the context of history, and how both Catholics and Protestants have, with varying degrees of success, spread the good news of God's grace to others. Strangely encouraging, too, was the reminder that we have much more to do.
And I thought, 'I can't wait to do more of this ministry together!'
I like it.
Sure, there will always be those who try to drive wedges and set up barriers. And there is a place for that, certainly. But perhaps the goal should be to build more rooms, reminding us that we are all in the same house (as C.S. Lewis put it in Mere Christianity).
This also points to the unity the Messianic Jews and Muslim Background Believers have found in Christ. Having friends who were enemies, both historically and culturally, call each other "brother" is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Redemption is amazing!
May we all continue to grow closer to Christ and in so doing find ourselves closer to one another.
Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad
* In keeping with the theme of disagreement, Doug makes some good points about the short-comings of the "Christian Survival Guide," the book which prompted Kris to blog about prayer.