Recently, I was listening to a podcast by Bad Christian and was struck by the conversation. They had recently done an interview with Jay Bakker, a liberal pastor with the emergent church who doesn't agree with inerrancy, hell or that Jesus is the only way to heaven.
Jay Bakker isn't the first, nor will he be the last self-identified Christian to land outside of what most Christians believe.
This is on the back of listening to several interviews with notable Christians who have found themselves in theological storms over the last couple of years, such as Michael Gungor, Mark Driscoll, Brian Houston and Rob Bell along the more typical ones thrown up like Joel Osteen, TD Jakes & Joyce Meyer.
Firstly, it made me think about the typical 'Christian' response to all these type of things: 'You're a heretic, enjoy burning in hell!' but secondly, how much I hate that response.
Here is why:
The very first Christian heretic was Peter, the rock that Jesus built the church on. He denied Jesus three times and that was his best friend – a guy he saw do miracle, after miracle, after miracle. The apostle Paul was a mass murderer of the early Christians, scattering them all across the Middle East and Europe. Do you remember Jesus saying that to either of them?
Think of the shame and guilt Peter had to live with when he not only denied even knowing one of his very best friends, let alone when he later realised that he was the Christ. Think of the burden that Saul carried with him because of his past . The question has to be whether they showed repentance first, or whether they were overwhelmed by love and grace.
In all honesty, maybe guys like Jay who don't know whether Jesus is the only way or TD Jakes who isn't on-board with the Trinity or Joel Osteen who preaches the prosperity gospel, well maybe they are lost. Maybe they are going to hell. Maybe their eternity is on the line.
Is our response then to condemn them, or to overwhelm them with prayer, love and grace? Think of how powerful Jesus' love was to release Peter from his denial. Think of how much grace the earliest Christians showed Paul when only weeks earlier he was hunting them down like diseased dogs.
When Paul recounts his past in 2nd Corinthians, what set him free? I am the least of the apostles, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me was not in vain. Or how about later in Ephesians, It is the grace of God which has set us free.
If you know, watch, listen or speak to someone you think lies outside of orthodoxy, drop the hate and condemnation and lead with love and grace. Pray for them, often and consistently. If you refuse to pray for someone, or don't pray for God to open your eyes to your own inconsistencies, then I would go as far to say that you give up your rights to call out anyone on their sin. You never had any ambitions to love them from the very start.
The grand story of scripture is saturated with sinners becoming saints through grace, foes becoming friends through forgiveness. Why should we be any different? Love them, give them grace, send them an email and tell them you love them before you ever drop the heretic bomb. By all means, tell them that you think they are wrong and call them to repentance but do so in a loving way.
Downplaying truth isn't loving, but neither is acting without grace. I'm not talking about cheap grace either, I'm talking about real, biblical grace that starts with the knowledge that apart from what Jesus has done, we are all nothing. If anything, that should motivate us to act in humility and love more than anything else, when we consider how God treated us, messed up and all.
Jesus spoke truth perfectly, but he led with love and grace. Both are important, and one is incomplete without the other. If you focus on truth at the price of love, you will very quickly lose your platform, friends and surround yourself in an increasingly smaller Christian enclave. We are called to be a city on a hill, bringing truth and love to weary travellers who desperately need it. Do not ignore some of the most profound truth in the bible. Your truth is worthless without love.
Let us be a people known for leading with love and grace in truth over everything else.
James Young knows that you don't read these. Instead, you should check out his website http://radicalchange2010.com.
James Young moved to the west of Melbourne to follow God's call on his life to tell young people about the greatest message they could ever hear – the gospel. On his days off, he seeks pain on a road bike, blissful beats by listening to Beautiful Eulogy and Trip Lee and relaxing with his beautiful wife Sarah. You can see more of his writing @radicalchange2010.com and follow him at @ragingzephyr on twitter.
James Young's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/james-young.html