Have you ever noticed how hard it is for us to describe how we are different from another Christian group without contempt or sounding like we are putting the other group down?
A Charismatic might describe themselves as “Spirit led”, implying that non-Charismatics are not “Spirit-led.” Non-Charismatics might say that they are led only by the Word of God instead of emotional experiences, implying that Charismatics are not led by the Bible or that they place emotional experience before the Bible. Ask a conservative to explain the difference between themselves and progressives and you might hear, “We stand on the clear teaching of scripture rather than watering down the Bible in order to be politically correct.”
All of this is contempt accompanied by feelings of superiority which results in separation and divorce between Christians, pastors, and denominations.
What would it look like for someone to describe the differences between themselves and someone else and it not sound contemptuous or like a put down? Let me make up a conversation between Chip (a new believer) and Dale (an older believer).
Chip: Hey Dale, the other night after Bible study I overhead Cindy and Denise talking about Egalitarians and Complementarians. What’s that?
Dale: Yeah, those are two different thoughts on the role of women in the home and in the church.
Chip: Which are you?
Dale: I’m a Complementarian.
Chip: What’s the difference between the two?
Dale: That’s a pretty complex question. Whole books have been written on the subject but let me give it a try. Complementarians and Egalitarians both look at the same scriptures but come to different conclusions pertaining to the role of women in the home and in the church. Egalitarians sincerely believe that the bible teaches that men and women are equal, equal in the home and equal in the church. Egalitarians would be okay with women pastors. Complementarians sincerely believe that the bible teaches that the role of women and men in the home and in the church is different and that these differences complement each other. Complementarians usually believe that women should not be pastors and women are under the spiritual authority of their husbands. Complementarians might say things like, “The husband is the head of the home.”, while Egalitarians would probably not say that.
Chip: And you say you are a Complementarian?
Dale: Well Chip, Egalitarians have some good arguments in their favor. Some of my best friends are Egalitarians and they love Jesus and love the word of God just like I do. It’s just that after listening to both sides and studying the Bible on my own I concluded that the Complementarian position made more sense to me.
Chip: Well if it’s good enough for you it’s good enough for me. I’m gonna be a Complementarian.
Dale: Well I appreciate that Chip but you can’t believe something as important as the role of women in the church and in the home simply based on what I believe. You need to look into the subject for yourself. Buy a couple books from both camps. Study what the Bible has to say and then you’ll be in a position to come to your own conclusion.
Chip: That’s too much work. I’ll just believe what you believe.
Ellen and I have a game we play, it’s called ‘Contempt.’ Here’s how it goes. Whenever we are driving around or talking at home and one of us is talking negatively about someone else (we like to call it “talking negatively” rather than use the words gossip or slander) and it begins to sound like contempt, one of us will say to the other,
“So what you’re basically saying is that you think you are better than they are?”
“Yes, apparently I do.”
We’ll laugh and then whoever stops the contempt first is the winner.
It’s time for those of us who call ourselves Christians, and or pastors, to stop the contempt. Our position on an important topic could be the right one but if it is held with contempt that makes us the one who is wrong.
PS. I’m not a Complementarian. 😉