Keep tension

Tension isn’t always a bad thing.

Sometimes it’s the thing that keeps us from landing in a place of judgment.

I’ve mentioned before how my pastor from Grants Pass often talks about holding two apparently contradictory Bible verses in tension with each other, and finding the truth somewhere in between them, like sailing a boat between two buoys – this keeps you from crashing your theological boat on one side or the other.


a) Paul says women should submit to their husbands.

b) Deborah, a married woman, was the judge over a nation. A nation that included her husband. A military at her command, presumably all male. Submitted to her.

Still working on the in between meaning there, but my point is that these two verses don’t match. And yet, if I don’t consider them both, I am guilty of cherry picking verses and not considering all sides of this issue.

There are many places in life where we are in danger of crashing our boat somewhere that is unhealthy. I’ve been guilty of this before.

For example, it is now in style to criticize the church.

Well, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Jesus did it. He practically reamed the Pharisees.

And there’s nothing wrong with pointing out Pharisaical practices in our churches, or pointing out absurdities in church culture. But in doing so, we sometimes forget that a lot of churches do good things.

They feed the poor. Support missionaries. Provide homes for the homeless. Counsel those struggling with addictions. Take care of needs where there are needs.

Recent example –

Our friends Jesse and Amy just welcomed tiny Titus into their lives, a month premature. Here is what Jesse wrote about the experience:

“Nothing like having a baby 4 weeks early to teach you this either! We definitely didn’t have everything we’d planned to done, and you know what? God covered it. Didn’t have health insurance, God covered it. House not ready? God provided helping hands. Stressed and don’t know how to cook and take care of a newborn? God used his people to bring us meals. Didn’t have any baby clothes? God poured out blessing through so many people, we haven’t needed or wanted for anything for the little guy. And that doesn’t even count how God provided for Amy and Titus in the hospital, making sure that nothing went amiss, that even as early as he was and so undersized, all his little parts worked perfectly and he could breath on his own!”

I have to start by saying that God deserves the glory for taking care of this couple the way he did. No doubt about that.

But look at how people allowed themselves to be used to bless this couple and their new child.

These people are the church. It’s an uncomfortable fact for those of us (myself included) who sometimes delight in criticizing and critiquing – to a fault.

The same thing happens with regards to politics. We lampoon candidates (and people in general) who belong to the opposite party. Because anybody who is a _________________ (insert party that isn’t yours here) is an idiot/bigot/jerk/freak/horrible human being, etc. It makes me a little heartsick when I see this on Facebook.

Sometimes, in our often well-intentioned crusades for religious, political, and social change, we exchange one form of judgment for another. 

I am the guiltiest of any of us when it comes to this, by the way.

But I invite you to join me in trying to stop.

This doesn’t mean that I won’t think critically about church culture anymore. I will continue to write and think about that, because there are a lot of changes that need to happen. But I cannot deny that God’s people are, by and large, kind. There are so many sides to every issue.

In fact, thinking critically by definition means that we MUST acknowledge all sides of an issue.

Thinking critically means that we must hold tension between truths. There are absolute truths, but that doesn’t mean that we can paint all people (in this case, all churchgoers) with the same brush.

For example:

a) The church has hurt a lot of people.

b) The church has done a lot of good things.

Both are true, and any conscientious discussion of the subject must include these truths.

So when we engage in a discussion of how the church needs to change, we should remember to keep these thoughts in tension with each other.

I think it will keep us right where we need to be.


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