Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Contending in Love
The constant opposition that Jeremiah endured didn’t serve to harden his heart towards his wayward people, rather their hard-heartedness to the Word of God and refusal to listen to it and repent, broke his heart.“My joy is gone; grief is upon me, my heart is sick within me.” (Jeremiah 8:18)
The condition of the Church of England in our day, ought to provoke a number of responses within those who love the Lord Jesus and the gospel, but one of the strongest ought to be a stirring of our hearts, because we love the Church. A love that ought to cause us to be willing to spend and be spent for the cause of the gospel within her. As under-shepherds faced with the existence of wolves from without and within, rather than giving us reason to abandon post and flee, we ought to be willing to follow in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep to give up our very lives for her renewal and reformation.
Sometimes, in our discussions, debates and deliberations there is a missing note-the note of love.
For example, if one of my children on reaching adulthood, formally rejected the Christian Faith and embraced a faith or a lifestyle completely hostile and diametrically opposed to my Christian Faith, what would happen? We would no doubt have many heated conversations, discussions and arguments. Our relationship would be massively impacted but no matter how fiercely we disagreed or how strongly I disapproved of their lifestyle choices, I would always love them and I would wrestle for them in prayer, ceaselessly. Furthermore, although I would continue to challenge and confront them, the way in which I did that, my manner and tone would convey a depth of love and concern, the purpose of the discussion would not be to ‘win the argument’ but to win their hearts. All too often in ecclesiological debate that can be lacking.
One of the hardest things can be to hold to strong convictions with humility, these can so easily be ‘either/or’s. Furthermore, there is all the difference in the world between believing the Bible to be God’s infallible, inerrant Word on the one hand and believing that therefore my interpretation of it is also infallible and inerrant on the other. The two realities of my creatureliness and my sinfulness mean that my understanding and my interpretation of God’s truth are inevitably incomplete and prone to error. Of course, God’s Truth can be truly known because He has revealed Himself to us, but it cannot be exhaustively known.
So we need to hold to the Truth we have received with conviction AND humility. Resisting the twin dangers of convictional arrogance that assumes we are always right, that not only is Scripture without error but so too are we in our interpretation of it or a misplaced humility that doubts the possibility of knowing Truth truly and is filled with uncertainty and confusion.
Often this a matter of manner and tone, the way in which we relate, discuss, and debate but we must do so with love and with humility whilst tenaciously holding fast to biblical truth and the biblical gospel.
We can also be prone to misunderstanding and confusing what it means to love someone. If we hold to the truth of God’s Word is it not loving to allow falsehood to flourish.
Our culture confuses love with tolerance. It believes that to love someone means always to affirm and never to challenge or to confront. It believes rather, that to challenge and confront is inevitably judgemental and arrogant. It believes that loving someone equates to telling them what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear.
Excerpted from: Gospel-Driven Anglicanism by the Revd Dr Mark Pickles, 2017.