One of my all-time favorite scenes is from the 1983 movie Mr. Mom. Jack (Michael Keaton) is driving to school and goes the wrong way in the carpool drop-off lane. As his kids are telling him he’s messing up, the crossing guard introduces herself and says “Hi Jack, I’m Annette. You’re doing it wrong.” She proceeds to explain the correct process and the scene ends with a miffed driver yelling “south to drop off moron!”
Often, we Christians and those from our particular “tribes” do the same thing to other Christ-followers with whom we disagree theologically or doctrinally. It’s embarrassing. Whomever you think Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17 was meant to include, surely it wasn’t just those who wear the same denominational or ideological jersey we do. The correct direction to drive in a carpool lane is pretty clear. So are some tenants of Christianity. But many are not. Those who are certain their interpretation of scripture is right and think that those who don’t agree are wrong, not as smart, or not as spiritual and they are legion. I think Jesus said something about that kind of attitude in Luke 18:9-14. Paul rejoiced that “Christ was preached,” regardless of the motivation or precision of the proclaimer. Perhaps we should too.
Ann Voskamp recently blogged about of one such situation in which a fellow Christ-follower, Tim Challies, wrote an extremely negative critique of her book, One Thousand Gifts. He wrote that “some of her ideas could well prove wrong to some readers.” Essentially, he was saying to her, you’re doing this whole Christianity/discipleship thing wrong. Worse than the critique was the demeaning tone in which it was written. To her credit, Ann didn’t respond in kind. Instead, she invited Tim and his family to dinner with hers. My mouth is still open from when I first heard of what she did. A disciple acting in a loving manner towards someone with whom they disagree doctrinally and that had treated them cruelly; what a concept.
She wrote the following about the encounter: “The Body of Christ has a thousand angry opinions, a thousand fractions and divisions and circles, all these cliques of circles, all these walls. But none of us are not broken. And acknowledging our own brokenness is what makes high walls between people crumble. Because when you are broken – it’s always your pointing finger that is broken. You can’t point at anyone else anymore as the only sinner. Brokenness breaks us from our need to be ‘right’ and breaks us open to our need to extend the grace we have been given.” As she considered reaching out to Tim she thought to herself, “While we yet theologically disagree, couldn’t I just reach out to you and be nice to you? Why do we demonize people instead of evangelize them?”
To Tim’s credit, Ann’s “Christ-fullness” got through to him and wrote this in apology and in response to her invitation: “I did poorly here and I can see that I need to grow in my ability to critique the ideas in a book even while being kind and loving to its author. There was reason for the shame I felt when I saw that name in my inbox. I had put effort into reading the book and understanding and critiquing it, but no real effort into showing love and respect for the author. I had assumed poor motives and in arrogance and thoughtlessness had squelched useful discussion of the book’s strengths and weaknesses.
There is value in engaging the ideas in any book, and especially a book about this Christian life, but the desire to uphold truth has no business coming into conflict with love for another person. Truth and love are to be held together as friends, not separated as if they are enemies. In my desire to say what was true, I failed to love. I ask Ann’s forgiveness for this.”
You’ve got to read Ann’s blog, her book, and Tim’s blog, about their encounter. If there were more of us who had Ann’s spirit, and less who saw ourselves as the “discipleship police,” more people would see Jesus in us and be drawn to Him. We can do better; surely we can.