When it comes to love, at what point do you say, “I have had enough. I don’t think we can go any further”?
I suppose in a case of domestic violence or infidelity, it doesn’t seem reasonable to say the above and still say, “I did my best to love you” and then walk away.
But what about for the ministry of reconciliation? What’s the point of no return, the breaking point of the relationship?
I think most evangelicals would say something theological. And with good reason. Up to a point. Up to a particular theological point. With Rob Bell, the farewells came at the questioning of hell. The biggest beef I hear most evangelicals have with Martin Luther King was his infidelity to his wife. With others, it’s been the issue of women in authority, or spiritual gifts, or inerrancy or the appropriate expression of worship or the matter of grape juice versus wine in the administration of the Lord’s Supper or loyalty to conservative or liberal politics or; wow, come to think of it, there’s a thousand breaking points that evangelical Christians have expressed in the ministry of reconciliation. It makes me wonder if we are really committed to reconciliation or we just haven’t found which bridge to burn next.
I’m not saying that there isn’t a good enough theological reason to part ways. I’m just suggesting that we have too many theological reasons, and that’s just within Christendom, not even about reaching out to the other. And honestly, it’s this reputation of theological error-sniffing that makes people not want to befriend Christians from the start. This is a missional problem when our efforts to reach out are suspect because we are notoriously “high strung” from the word “go” (into all the world…).
In general, we have a posture of critique and not of action. I hear the criticisms of Occupy Wall Street from Christians and I think, but we weren’t going to do anything, were we? I mean, the prophetic language for holding the rich accountable for their greed comes directly from Scripture, and I haven’t heard much ado from church leaders or pastors about it. We are good about soothing and praying for mercy and comfort, but action — there’s just too much risk that we’d set off the criss-crossed laser-beam guarded world of sin-sniffing fellow Evangelicals. What was that – social gospel? a different atonement theory? oh yeah? Well, how’s your thought life? How’s your walk with Jesus? What are you a communist? postmodernist? liberal? Are you saying you approve of their lifestyle then? Etc. Etc.
My Christian brothers and sisters, our best witness is the love we have for one another — not enlightenment, not better looks, not better jobs, not a higher salary, not happier kids, not a better eduction — just a supernatural capacity to love others. Read 1 John 4 and tell me that’s not the measure of our faith. We say we want to tell people the good news, but we have so much fine print that comes with it, we sound like today’s latest pharmaceutical release that claims to treat one thing but gives you a whole host of other problems. That’s not good news. That’s a clinical trial that hasn’t gotten FDA clearance. That’s a cure that is worse than the disease. I don’t mean to get preachy here, but I find that we back out of opportunities for reconciliation far too quickly, and we are far too prickly in relationships with each other and non-Christians to the point that instead of having a deep faith, we have one that’s one thread away from breaking ties all together. And even that perception becomes an obstacle to overcome for the next Christian who is willing to reach out and embody Christ.