The Myth of Us vs. Them (Part 2)

Battle

Believers vs. Other Believers

In the previous post from this series, I examined the myth of believers vs. unbelievers, concluding that we are fighting for them, not against them. Today, I am going to look at the myth of believers vs. other believers with whom we disagree.

Truth

The Bible emphasizes truth. Jesus even called himself “the truth” (John 14:6). I believe in truth, and I believe it to be of utmost importance. I would tend to think that the majority of Christians believe the same. Thus, it is our natural desire to defend the truth from error. From this desire comes the field of apologetics.

I do believe in apologetics. To some extent, I would consider myself to be an apologist. However, I think we often go about it the wrong way. Let’s take a look at the rallying cry for the Christian apologist, which is also the verse from which we get the word apologetics.

But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. (1 Peter 3:15, NET)

We can make several observations from this one verse. First, our answer is to be given in response to those who ask. Second, our answer is directed primarily at unbelievers, not fellow Christians. Third, our answer has to do with why we have hope in Jesus as the resurrected Christ, not why we hold to our particular segment of Christian belief. And fourth, well, we actually need to take a look at the next verse, tragically left out by far too many apologists.

Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you. (1 Peter 3:16, NET)

Ouch. Yes, I’m guilty of violating that one as well. “Courtesy and respect” can be difficult to maintain when we’re trying to fight for the truth. But that’s the thing; we’re not supposed to be fighting with people. Yes, we are to speak the truth, but it must be done in love—to build up the body, not tear it down (Ephesians 4:15–16).

This is especially important when we are dealing with fellow believers. Our goal should never be to defend our theological position or to win an argument. Rather, the goal must always be to lovingly come to the truth together.

Discussion or Debate?

No matter who you are or what you’re discussing, I guarantee that you are wrong on something. I guarantee the same for myself. Allow the Spirit to use your brother to show you where you are wrong. At the same time, the Spirit can use you to show your brother where he is wrong.

This does not mean that you should in any way compromise your beliefs. If you believe that the Bible teaches a certain truth, then hold to that truth, and be ready to explain to others why you believe it. Present the evidence. But you don’t have to convince every other Christian to believe in exactly the same way.

Dialogue is great. I love hearing two (or more) sides presented about a given topic. But debate just stirs up strife and contention among believers. It is possible to present your case and listen to the other side without debating.

Charles Spurgeon famously said, “The Word of God is like a lion. You don't have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.” The same is true for every doctrine found within the Bible. If it is true, that truth will defend itself. We are simply to present and explain it.

Division

Unfortunately, Christians often divide into segments due to the specific teachings they believe to be true. Even if they don’t consider one another to be enemies, they still choose not to interact with them on a regular basis. The problem is that no one of these segments has all the truth completely figured out.

We need interaction with believers of different persuasions in order to come to the fullest truth together. If you only associate with those who believe exactly the same thing as you, then you will never find out where you are wrong, and you will never change for the better. I believe that little has done more harm to the body of Christ than denominational segregation.

Conclusion

It’s not us vs. them. At least it should not be. All followers of Christ are to work together for his kingdom. There are precious few legitimate reasons for separation; otherwise, we must be one (John 17:20–23).

Will there be differences in belief? Yes! That’s okay. You don’t have to compromise your beliefs. But you do have to remember that those who believe differently are still your brothers and sisters if they are in Christ.

What Do You Think?

Where is the line between presenting what we believe and getting into a debate? Why are Christians so quick to divide themselves? How can we maintain unity in Christ with different beliefs on “secondary” doctrines? What are the “primary” doctrines we should divide over?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.