Newsletter – October 2021
“On the essentials, we need unity.
On the non-essentials, we need liberty.
And in all things we need charity.”
Greetings from the desk of the Pastor! The above quote is often attributed to St. Augustine, but it’s debatable. It’s a pretty common phrase used as a good rule of thumb when there is a group of people who disagree with things.
It’s fairly straight forward – in the areas that are the core, the essential beliefs and teachings, we all need to be on the same page. We need unity. In the areas that are NOT the core, the secondary issues, we need liberty – we need freedom to disagree and still respect and love one another. But what I wanted to highlight this month is that third phrase. IN ALL THINGS, WE NEED CHARITY. This last phrase often gets left out of the discussion and we as a culture have completely lost it in our conversations.
Basically, the final phrase means that when we interact with someone we disagree with, we need to be charitable in our interpretation. We need to give our “opponent” the benefit of the doubt and try to understand where they are coming from – rather than simply looking for a way to make them seem foolish. Over the past few years, public discourse has dissolved in such a way that our only goal is to WIN at all costs. To “own the libs” or to “dunk on the conservatives” or whatever it may be. But this is not the way Christians ought to behave. We CAN do better. We must do better.
Our arguing back and forth in the modern world is FULL of unfair, uncharitable assumptions. Sometimes when talking about an issue I will ask people, “well why does the other side think that? Why do they do that?” And folk will respond, “Well, they’re all idiots” or “because they’re racist” or “because they’re mean” – but these are silly, uncharitable responses. They show that we have not done the work to understand our enemy. We have not tried to see where they are coming from and respond – we have simply written them off.
Jesus often said to his disciples, “the world will do it one way, but among you it will be different.” (Matthew 5:38, among others). I believe that call is still incredibly relevant to the modern church. As Christians we are called to be different than the rest of the world. They may not give you the benefit of the doubt. They may fight dirty, use coarse language, be deceitful or hurtful – but you are called to something higher than that.
When I was a kid, and I would get in trouble with my parents – I always used to try and pin it on the other kid. I would say, “well, but HE did this…” or “well, but she did that..” But every time my mother or father would look at me and say, “I didn’t ask what they did – I asked what you did. You are not responsible for how they act, you ARE responsible for how you respond.” Words of wisdom that have never left me, and I now realize how much they echo the teachings of Jesus. We are called to a higher level of discourse. To be different than the way the world operates.
And please don’t think that I am scolding anyone in this church. I am writing this letter because I noticed these tendencies to be uncharitable in MY OWN LIFE. I figure, if I’m struggling to be charitable with my neighbor, maybe some of you have been struggling with the same thing. And here’s the important part: with the mess in our culture getting messier every single day, our church has a rare opportunity to be something different. People are looking for a place where they can have charitable conversations without being afraid they will be attacked. People are looking for a place where they can experience love and God’s presence – where they can put down the walls the culture taught them to build and simply be present in the grace of Jesus. We have so many amazing programs coming up this month, and as our church experiences revival this fall – I pray that in all things we may have charity. I am looking forward to the future, but until then – I’ll see you on Sunday.