Many times in my Christian walk, I feel caught in the middle. I’m not conservative enough for some, yet for others, I’m too rigid. On one view, my opinions might match up completely with the fundamentalist Christian, while on another, I might relate to that of a person with a more liberal interpretation of Scripture. I don’t feel completely home in either camp, and most of the time, I don’t want to.
Last week I was a spectator to the blog world’s ping pong match between those who feel Scripture has a clear mandate for mothers to stay home with their children and those who do not. Some stay-at-home moms wrote posts exhorting other moms to stay home as God’s will, while other women argued back that God’s will for some mothers might be to work outside the home. I read some of these posts and left feeling…well…uncomfortable.
Once again, I was caught in the middle. I stay home with my children, but I honestly didn’t even know there was a verse from Scripture to defend that decision, had I wanted to use one. I felt like a child watching her parents fight, confused by the argument and not wanting to take sides because she loves both of her parents.
For days I thought about what I had read. I thought about the blogs passionately defending the idea that a mother’s place is at home with her children, wanting to lead all mothers to that same conclusion, and I thought about those equally as passionate refuting that idea, that while staying home with one’s children is fine, so is working. Both sides of the argument had their own verses from Scripture. I thought about those who left comments on different blogs saying they were so hurt by the discussion, the implication that they were sinners, and had decided to never read that particular blog again. And I thought to myself, “How does this happen? Why has this topic blown up into such a heated debate between Christians?”
Because both sides know that they’re right. Whether they’ve decided that God is clear in His mandate or that there is no mandate, both sides feel in their hearts that they are right. When people truly believe they know the truth, they are going to want to share, not to leave others in the dark. And when their values have been attacked, especially a value they have prayerfully received, they are going to defend it.
I don’t know how it is possible for two people who are honestly seeking God’s will, looking for guidance from the Holy Spirit to interpret Scripture, to come to vastly different conclusions. I don’t know how, but I know it happens on almost every topic in Christianity. From politics to homosexuality to alcohol to the movies we watch, there are people on complete opposite sides of the spectrum defending their views as God’s views.
And the arguments are personal because, after all, if you were honestly seeking God’s will to an issue, and He told you His will, what does that mean if someone else says that God told him something different? Did you hear God wrong, or did he?
Perhaps the problem with all these debates is that they’re missing the point. While each discussion may have started with Jesus as the focus and with pure intentions, the further and further into the debates we get, the more and more Jesus gets pushed to the side. No longer are our eyes on our Creator and His will but on defending our own personal agendas. There is a fine line between causing a person to think, to stretch his or her faith, and causing dissension in the church. And sometimes I don’t think we know the difference.
While we are defending our views on why we should vote for this candidate for president, there are people living under the control of corrupt governments, unable to get clean drinking water. While we debate whether or not Christians can be pro-choice, there’s a frightened pregnant teenager at our local high school who doesn’t know where to turn. And while we debate whether or not moms should stay at home, there are millions of orphans in the world who need a family. Instead of watching us debate, the world should see us act.
I don’t know why I can believe something so strongly, see something so clearly in Scripture, yet have my neighbor not see what I see. I don’t know how someone can make me feel guilty for a view I have when I sought the Lord first. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t have to know. My faith is based on Jesus, and I shouldn’t understand everything, otherwise I don’t need faith.
Our world needs Jesus, not our opinions. They need us to be His hands and feet, to take His love to those who need it most. And while we should seek God’s will and learn and debate and feel solid in our convictions, we can’t confuse our convictions with the face of Jesus. The issues we debate are important but not at the expense of Him in whose name we debate.