Someone recently asked me if I was a conservative evangelical or a proponent of social justice and much to her consternation I replied, “Yes.”
The older I get, the less comfortable I am with boxes and binary thinking. I mean goodness gracious, I grew up Baptist AND now wear leather pants while riding our motorcycle! I also have a very high view of Holy Writ, believing the Bible to be absolutely authoritative and inerrant for God’s intended purposes AND I have a very low view of using God’s Word ~ especially out of context ~ as a battering ram to bully or shame others for committing sins that aren’t in our particular repertoire of rebellion (or perhaps are just better camouflaged). I’ll stake my life on the unconditional love and soteriological sufficiency of Jesus Christ ~ I believe unequivocally that faith in Him is the only means through which sinful humanity can be reconciled with our Creator and perfectly holy Heavenly Father AND I believe it is our privilege and responsibility as Christ-followers to treat everyone ~ including those who have put their faith in other gods or no god at all ~ with genuine kindness and respect because all people (including the unborn, the marginalized, the stigmatized, the poor, the wealthy, the addicted, the recovering, the physically ill, the mentally ill and Every. Body. Else. who carries the name human) bear God’s image and are therefore inherently worthy of dignity and compassion. I’m a Bible-banger AND a hellion-hugger.
And for goodness’ sake don’t even get me started on denominational rifts, church territorialism, doctrinal elitism and sanctimonious Christians slinging other believers under the bus based on some supposed moral high ground. I have Christian friends who understand and interpret scripture exactly like I do AND many lovely, mature Christian friends who don’t. If we can agree on the authority of God’s Word and the supreme sufficiency of Jesus Christ, I don’t care whether you prefer kneeling or dancing, Calvin or Arminius, candles or LED screens, liturgy or electric guitars, tattoos or ten-gallon cowboy hats, dresses with pantyhose or torn jeans with trendy sneakers. I’m delighted and honored to stand beside believers from across the continuum of orthodoxy as we press forward into our miraculous, undeserved calling as messengers of the New Covenant! I sincerely and stubbornly believe that we can find a Gospel-honoring synergy of spirit and truth when we choose to labor together in unity (not uniformity) for God’s glory.
Many years ago, I asked an older, wise pastor ~ who’d attended a seminary similar to my alma mater and presumably held the same conservative theological views ~ if he thought I should focus more on doctrine when I taught. He paused for a while and then replied, “Lisa, I think you should just keep on talking about the unconditional love, unmerited favor and restorative forgiveness of our Savior. Because if people engage with the real Jesus, they’ll eventually get good doctrine.” I pondered and prayed about his response for weeks afterwards and ended up being deeply convicted of narcissism and insecurity. I asked God to help me become less and less concerned about what people thought about me and my views and more and more concerned about what they thought about Jesus and His truths. Because when we become overly distracted by other people’s opinions ~ through unhealthy us-versus-them collusion or contentious, polarizing discord ~ thereby siphoning each other’s peace and joy and diminishing our divine purpose as Christ’s representatives to the beautiful, broken world around us, we’ve missed the whole point, haven’t we?
Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8, CSB
“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.” Mark 9:38-41, NIV
And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 22:35-40, ESV
I can’t impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder. Christ himself is the Judge, with the final say on everyone, living and dead. He is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple.You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you—keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.
2 Timothy 4:1-5, The Message (emphasis mine)