3 Reasons to Respond Graciously When your Theology is Challenged

“I would recommend to all my brethren, as the most necessary thing to the Church’s peace, that you unite in necessary truths, and tolerate tolerable failings; and bear with one another in things that may be borne with; and do not make a larger creed and more necessaries than God has done.” – Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter

As means of communication becomes easier and social media gives just about anyone a platform it’s easy to take shots at other camps based off of sound bites and clips. In all honesty, this is painful for me and I see this occurring all over Facebook and Twitter. On the one hand, its important to have the ability to voice concern but it becomes scary when it turns into a monster fight via social media.

When people find their identity in a theological position, denomination, or conviction and not in Jesus there’s a serious problem. And when Christians make the minors majors it’s a serious problem.

The moment of truth. If you ask me what camp I’m in the easiest answer is to say I’m reformed. But my identity is in Christ. My hope, faith, source of life, is in Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, as a stereotypical “reformed” type I’m absolutely into theology and my favorite books revolve around theology and doctrine. And at times I read blogs and articles that pin point the “reformed tradition” as being ego and intellectually driven, just a fad, or more committed to tradition than Jesus. Regardless of if this is true or not, what matters is my response. I have two choices.

1. Get defensive and attack the other camp
2. Respond graciously

Here are three reasons why I believe the gracious response is always the best option.

1. The scriptures tell us too – Psalm 133:1, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity”. David helps us to illustrate the importance of unity by giving us two examples.

  • Precious oil anointing Aaron – In this imagery we find Aaron who served as high priest being anointed with precious oil. The oil would eventually flow down on his beard and over his chest which would have the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Essentially, a consecrated, unified, and holy people of God would serve as an example to the rest of the world.
  • Falling dew – Dew served as symbol of refreshing, quickening, and invigoration. Likewise, brotherly unity should cause a resurgence, renewal, and refreshing for the believer.[1]

When responding in these situations we should consider how it will affect the unity of the church universal. If our response destroys unity, it’s not helpful or edifying for the church.

2. It fosters reconciliation not destruction – A gracious response may be the difference in a long and positive relationship. An un gracious response may be the catalyst for a destroyed and lost relationship. A family has fights and arguments. There are often different perspectives and opinions. However, each conversation should be aimed toward reconciliation, the same can and should be said between Christians.

3. It provides a bridge for honest conversations – If we are able to do the first two, the benefit could be an honest dialogue where both parties are heard. Its not about who wins, rather about understanding each others perspective. Our value and ability to live in unity in spite of different perspective on the minors is a thing that honors and edifies the church.

Please don’t misunderstand me. If something is said that falls blatantly outside the framework of the orthodox Christianity, we must address it. In fact, as pastors it is our responsibility to address such matters as we lovingly lead our people. This is not about being passive and not holding to convictions. It’s about holding to convictions while still representing Christ well.

 

 


[1] James E. Smith, The Wisdom Literature and Psalms, Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1996), Ps 133:3.

Selfishness – Grace – Forgiveness: Our Inability and Christ’s Ability

Selfishness.

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Seriously, don’t touch it.

Don’t let this cute face fool you, if you even try to touch his donut, look at it the wrong way, or ask for a bite, Liam will take you out. It’s scary to see in this handsome little boy a selfishness that no one had to teach him.

Selfishness. Grace. Forgiveness.

These three words pretty much sum up my week and what God has been teaching me. I want my boys desperately to learn from my mistakes and become Godlier men and future husbands and fathers.

Selfishness: Some may say that they want to teach their children to not be selfish. I may be crazy, but I want to teach my children to deal with their selfishness. I’ve come to terms that selfishness is part of my sinful nature. The only remedy is remembrance of the Gospel. As I remember how selfless Christ was, it compels me to become selfless like Christ. The key is not me doing something, but resting in what Christ has done, and in remembrance of Him, responding.

Grace: I screw up. Sometimes, it feels like more screwing up than not. Then comes the beauty if grace. It’s not something I work towards and build up to have available to use when I screw up. It’s free, it’s costly (Christ crucified), and it’s given to me. Again, remembrance is key here. As we remember the grace extended to us, why would we not extend it to others?

Forgiveness: May possibly be the hardest thing for me. I tend to be extremely loyal, but when I’m hurt or feel betrayed forgiveness does not come natural to me. Speaking of betrayal, I’m pretty sure I’ve betrayed Christ in numerous ways today. As I reflect on today specifically, I betrayed him most frequently by not trusting Him. He doesn’t hold this against me. He forgives me. Remembrance of Christ’s forgiveness, sets us free to forgive.

If you caught a theme, it might be summed up in one word – remembrance. I pray my sons would remember all that Christ has done. It’s key in the solution to our selfishness, the ability to extend grace, and having the capacity to forgive.

Levi’s Story and God’s Great Grace and Glory

One of the most incredible moments for a husband and wife is when they find out that they are going to have a baby. I remember when I found out we were pregnant with my first born Liam. It was thanksgiving morning and I woke up to my wife holding a positive pregnancy test in front of me. It was amazing. I assumed that it would always feel like this. However, I found out, in not a delicate manner that it doesn’t always work out like that.

With our son Levi, my wife experienced some odd side affects and we were worried. When calling the doctor, he told us that we were experiencing a miscarriage  It was cold. without emotion and left us shocked. We were not trying to get pregnant, and in a matter of hours we felt an incredible sense of loss. The doctor told us to come in after two weeks for a follow up. At this appointment they did an ultrasound as a precautionary method. And then it happened. I heard the distinct, strong, rhythm of a heart beat. The nurse was shocked. And so our emotional roller coaster continued. While mourning the loss of a child for two full weeks, we now celebrated the life that God in his great mercy preserved!

Fast forward a couple months I move to Bellingham, WA to accept a position with Logos Bible Software. This meant leaving my almost one year old son and pregnant wife behind a couple months to start my new job and relocated the entire family four months later. This is stressful already. The last thing you want to get is a frantic call from your wife in another state crying. During a routine blood work analysis the doctor saw some alarming results and asked if we wanted to “continue with the pregnancy”. Essentially, they asked us if we wanted an abortion. We said no, that our child was still our child regardless of what the results were.

Over the course of three week’s we were told the following:

First that Levi most likely had Edwards Syndrome (the majority of children with Edwards Syndrome do not live past 1-2 years of age).

Then that he most likely did not have Edwards Syndrome, but that it was likely that he would have Down Syndrome.

Finally, that he most likely did not have Down Syndrome, but he would be born with cysts on his kidneys.

Written words can not do justice to the emotions that we felt. Fear, anger, despair, frustration, sadness, and a loss of hope. It was during this time that my faith and affection for Christ were truly tested. Would I still love, serve, honor, and worship God if my son was:

  • Never born due to a miscarriage
  • Born with Edwards Syndrome
  • Born with Down’s Syndrome
  • Born with a Kidney disease

When we are faced with these type of challenges and fears, it causes us to consider the position of our hearts in relationship to belief, faith, trust, and hope in the Gospel. And to top things off, reading through the scriptures, I do not see promises of pure prosperity. wealth, and health (Matthew 24:9). I see stories and examples of the worst of people, and the worst of circumstances, that God uses to redeem, restore, and ultimately glorify Himself.

Levi John Muddamalle (minutes old)

And then on January 27th, at 3:48am, after 15 minutes of pushing, baby Levi John Muddamalle joined us. He was perfect. He was healthy. He had a full head of black hair. And he a great set of lungs. A day later they took an ultra sound of his kidneys and saw that they were perfectly fine! Holding my two day old son I reflected on the journey we had been through. Then it hit me. What would have happened to this incredibly beautiful life if we chose to “discontinue the pregnancy”? How many parents make that type of decision based on the results of tests? How many of those results are wrong?

The journey that we went through caused us to grow in our love and deep affection for Christ. It left us trusting in the sovereignty of God. Levi’s life is an example of God’s great grace. His story will be one that magnifies God’s immense glory.