The Grass Is Always Heretical on the “Other Side”
by Shai Linne
Anyone who has peered in on the “race” conversation in pockets of the American church in recent years must quickly conclude that Christians seem more divided than ever on this topic. With the amalgamation of religion and politics serving as a spark plug, the rhetoric on all sides of the debate has become increasingly hostile, malicious, and uncharitable. Some are convinced that the other side has bought into a left-wing liberal political agenda, making “race” a bigger deal than it is, seeing “racism” where it’s nowhere to be found, and ignoring the progress that America has made since slavery, the Jim Crow era, and the Civil Rights Movement. Some are convinced that the other side has conflated Christianity with a right-wing conservative political agenda, denying obvious examples of “racism” and ignoring the present-day effects of over three hundred years of government-sanctioned oppression of Black people in the US. What makes the whole debate so perplexing is that both sides claim to follow the same Jesus, read the same Bible, and believe the same gospel.
In our arrogance, we assume that we’re reading the Bible correctly and that those we disagree with are obviously in error. Chapter 22 in the gospel of Matthew is instructive for us in this regard. In this passage, there were two opposing religious groups, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, both of whom asked Jesus a series of questions to test Him. The Pharisees are considered by many to have been the theological conservatives of the day—the original “Bible Thumpers” with all their theological “i’s” and “t’s” meticulously dotted and crossed. The Sadducees are looked at by many as the theological liberals of the day—the original “Downgraders”—with a Jeffersonian penchant for splashing Wite-Out all over the supernatural passages in Scripture. As they questioned Jesus, the Lord displayed a biblical and rhetorical swordsmanship reminiscent of Obi-Wan Kenobi as He cut down the arguments of both groups one by one. By the end of the chapter, He managed to call them hypocrites (v. 18), inform them that they were wrong and didn’t know the Scriptures or the power of God (v. 29), and stump them with a question about the Bible so hard that it left them speechless and unwilling to ever ask Him a question in public (v. 46), lest He make them look like fools in front of everyone again.
My point is not to say that there’s a one-to-one correlation between Christians and those two religious groups. But there is enough in that account to cause us all to walk humbly before the Lord and one another. Both groups were religious. Both groups had followers. Both groups read the Scriptures. And both groups were dead wrong. My point is that when there are people who love Jesus and the Bible on the “other side” of the argument, we shouldn’t automatically assume that we are the ones who are correct and in exact alignment with Jesus. In fact, we both might be wrong. Jesus had a way of indicting and offending everyone at some point in His ministry. Are we the special ones with whom Jesus just happens to agree at every point? Humility demands that we pray with David,
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Ps. 139:23-24)
Excerpted from The New Reformation: Finding Hope in the Fight for Ethnic Unity by Shai Linne (© 2021). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.
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