This is a chapter out of one of my favorite books. I hope you enjoy.
A young Christian, nineteen years old, watches anxiously as world tensions mount. Iran, Afghanistan, Central America: they trouble him. A presidential order requiring all draft-age males to register with the Selective Service sends him to the scriptures to study its view on war. He sincerely desires to live out the values of the kingdom, and through prayer, study, and counsel form other believers, he arrives at a decision: in obedience to the word of God, he will not register. In civil disobedience, he takes his stand for the cause of righteousness.
Another draft-age youth, also a Christian, watches the same events. He too is troubled by the suffering in the world. He is convinced that war, all war, is wrong. Yet when the order to register comes, he is caught in a tension between what seems to be two evils. He remembers the biblical injunction to obey the authorities, and he too spends hours in prayer and searching the scriptures. He seeks the counsel of older, wiser people of faith. His final decision; in obedience to the word of God he will register.
The same struggle of conscience takes place many other serious issues. Why do Christians not agree on such important matters? Is it because some are more spiritually mature than others? Are some more hermeneutically astute and able to gain more accurate insight into the word of God? Surely God doesn’t contradict himself. What shall we do when well-meaning Christians come up with different answers from the ones God has clearly revealed to us as his truth?
Perhaps we should try to educate these ignorant ones. If they refuse to accept the truth, we can cut them off from our fellowship. Didn’t Christ say, “I came not to bring peace but a sword?” (Matt. 10:34). Surely peace at any price is not the answer.
But one of the things that troubles me as I take up causes for the kingdom is this: our Lord has told us the essential I.D. for all “card-carrying” Christians is “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). There is nothing distinguishing about holding certain political positions, engaging in debates, staging protests. Whether we pledge allegiance to the moral majority or the radical minority, whether we vote Republican or Democrat (or Independent, Libertarian, or Socialist), there is no visible statement to the world about our commitment to the lordship of Christ. We may join pro- or anti-nuke, life, draft, ERA, Contra, or defense bandwagons and do so for all the right reasons, but this will not cause us to shine like lights in darkness. Such affiliations may express our convictions, but they do not set us apart as “Christ-ones.”
There is only one activity so unique to this world that Christ distinguished it as one proof of his diety and of our authenticity as his followers. It is more disarming than SALT talks. It is more reconciling than Camp David peace accords, more convincing than arguments for and against abortion or gay rights, or the authority of scripture. It illuminates the minds of men and women more than Christian television or political debates, and it is not an option for a Christian. It is a command. It is love. Love of a special sort.
Unfortunately, we seldom see this love. We talk about it, but quickly abandon it in the pursuit of “rightness.” Perhaps building cases for issues is much more exciting than loving each other; issues allow us to win, or at least compete. Love on the other hand, lays down its ego, its case, its defenses for the sake of another – and that isn’t fun.
And yet our Lord saw love as so vital that he spent his last night emphasizing and reemphasizing it to his disciples. He assured them (and us) that he would reaveal himself to them, give his Holy Spirit to teach them, grant all that they ask, give them peace and joy, and call them his friends if they would but obey him by living out his love (John 13-15). Would it be easy? Is laying down your life easy? Yet, said Christ, this is how love is measured.
But what about the issues? Shouldn’t we take stands on important issues like human rights, war, and even life itself? Of course. We must. This isn’t to say that all Christians will take the same stand. As long as we are fallen and our perceptions are colored by our experiences, as long as we have blind spots and different personalities (aggressive and passive, patient and impulsive, philosophical and practical, creative and rigid), we will continue coming up with different answers. We will disagree over disarmament and genetic planning, over movie-going and laetrile.
Yet somehow in the tension between the poles, God continues to work. Love leads us to an appreciative understanding of the unique contribution each member makes to the body of Christ, and thus the tension is creative. But without the willingness to lay aside, at least for at ime, our own position in order to affirm a dissenting brother or sister, the tension will undoubtedly be destructive. I suspect that Christ is working overtime these days healing the ears (and egos) of those we have slashed in his defense. Perhaps it is time we put away our swords and began displaying the mark of “Christ-ones:” Love.