Thursday, February 16, 2006

When Both Sides Are Wrong

In a Bible discussion last night, my friend Randy observed that sometimes church problems resemble the insurrection attempted by Korah the Levite and his Reubenite friends Dathan and Abiram against Moses in Numbers 16. Korah and friends challenge the authority of Moses and doubt whether God really backs him. Probable motives of the rebellion were Korah's wanting to be high priest of Israel and the Reubenites wanting political power. Moses and his brother Aaron had both. In response to Randy's statement, I suggested that often church squabbles, local or national, might be better described as Dathan versus Abiram - both sides are wrong. Perhaps one side advocates an unorthodox position; the other responds with personal attacks. From there the fracas escalates as each side bombards the other with increasingly vicious accusations, and one (or both) moves into increasingly questionable doctrinal positions as its proponents (subconsciously?) try to distance themselves from their attackers. What really makes it tragic is that all involved may love Jesus and his church dearly. They want nothing so badly as to advance the cause of Christ in the world. Everyone involved may be warm (to those who agree with them), friendly, highly moral, and biblically knowledgeable. But their behavior, to take an expression from 2 Corinthians chapter 2, emits the odor of death. While group members may cheer their champions, the rest of the world chokes on the rancid smell. "By this all men will know that you are my disciples," Jesus said in John 13, "if you love one another."

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