(WARNING: Some may not agree with me on this one…)
I am no longer excited by music simply because it is wears a ‘christian’ label, but there are a few bands that I like. I saw one of these bands play recently at a Christian event. They were sounding awesome. And then…
The lead singer began a rant in which he told people to have ‘faith’ that God was going to ‘do’ something that night, and that they needed to have ‘faith’ that it would happen. The crowd was told to get rid of ‘cynicism’ or anything else that would keep them from having this faith. He then invited them to ‘receive’ the healing (physical) power of God. Moments later he whispered into the microphone, speaking something that wasn’t english (or any other language, I suspect).
Regardless of what you believe concerning physical, miraculous healing or speaking in ‘tongues’ (in my view, the ‘tongues’ in Scripture are the ‘other languages’ of the Gentiles), my concern was not so much that the lead singer had a different view than me, but rather the effect his words could have on others.
It is no secret that the body of Christ is not in agreement on these issues. The crowd he was speaking to would have been largely divided on them. Doing what he did was disrespectful to the plethora of views in the crowd. Not only this, I think it was greatly unhelpful (perhaps even harmful) to new Christians who can be easily persuaded.
I’m sure that people who agree with him were very excited by what he did (given the scattered “woo-hoo’s” that I heard), but I was thinking about a different group of people… namely, those that didn’t agree. He was quite blatantly de-valuing their belief as not being as good or spiritual as his. Particularly, I felt for the new, un-grounded, insecure Christians who were likely to be left feeling that they must not be very ‘spiritual’.
I know this sounds like the very cynacism that the lead singer told the crowd to get rid of, but honestly, my main concern is for these easily mis-led Christians.
There is ground that we all stand on as Christians (the death/burial/resurrection/divinity of Christ to name a few), but these secondary issues need to be dealt with more carefully. All too often, we mis-handle them in at least two main ways.
1) We NEVER talk about them. This is bad, because it prevents us from sharpening each other. It only solidifies us in our own opinion, and allows pride to fester. It is only in respectful debate and dialogue that we will be able to learn from one another and have our beliefs both challenged AND strengthened. True, disrespectful arguments are a waste of time, but much can be gained from healthy debate.
2) We talk about them in in inappropriate contexts. This can be unhelpful in several ways, but the above example was particularly unhelpful because not only was it a context in which people weren’t permitted (nor encouraged) to disagree, but they were instead presented with a bully-like attitude if they didn’t. The underlying feeling was, ‘If you don’t agree, then you’re just not spiritual.’
Which brings me to my main and final point. We need to be discerning as Christians. Indeed, ‘discernment’ is seen by others as ‘cynicism’. We need to be able to discern between (as one Christian author puts it) between ‘heat and light’.
Light is characterised by love. Love is the ultimate expression of Spirituality. Indeed, the Spirit can express Himself in many ways, but He will stay true to His personality as described in Scripture (perhaps the best example of the Personality of the Spirit is seen in Pauls abbreviated list in Galatians 5:22-23).
Discernment is needed to distinguish between that which is light and that which is simply ‘heat.’ Many things are thought of and/or said to be ‘spiritual’, but can sometimes be simply lights, smoke, mirrors, emotions or some combination of them. Don’t be bullied by people (including me, of course) who insist you must believe what they do (especially if it isn’t a basic Christian doctrine).
The light of love is un-mistakable. It is light against the darkness. It is love against hatred. It is justice against injustice. It is peace against fighting. It is protection against attack. It is honesty against dishonesty. It is reconciliation against separation. It is provision against poverty.