In a recent post, Paul Louis Metzger compared following Jesus to Lewis Carroll’s “Alice” who, following the White Rabbit, is soon “falling down a very deep well.” Metzger asks, “Once we enter [into our pursuit of Jesus], do we really have a choice as to what will happen?”
Yes. Sadly, we do have a choice, still.
With Jesus, we have not fallen down a rabbit-hole. And that is truly unfortunate. Because in following Christ’s path many suppose that there are off-ramps to this highway, other courses we could set to the mark ahead of us, or at least some occasions on which the best option is to simply stop where we are, so as to avoid arriving at the place to which Christ calls us.
I have co-led two recent discussions with fellow-Christians whom I deeply respect. And yet nearly all expressed limitations on their commitment to pursuing Christian unity. Reasons to avoid “theology in community” included the potential for immature emotional outbursts, “unanswerable questions” raised when mutually studying scripture, and even the simple possibility of facing one’s own misunderstandings of God’s word.
Our discussions amply illustrated the difficult requirements of the true oneness-in-Christ for which Jesus prayed (John 17:20-21,23) and toward which the Apostle Paul admonishes us (Philippians 2:1-2). We also illustrated, though, how easily we yield to the temptation to limit our walk with Christ. We claim Him as Lord, proclaim ourselves His followers, and then tell Him how we set the boundaries where we choose to go “this far, and no farther” (Job 38:8-11).
Authentic, transparent, and vulnerable fellowship is costly. It takes time to listen to others’ perspectives. It takes courage to re-examine the presuppositions and prejudices we hold toward others, even Christ, and especially His word. It takes humility to admit that amidst the diverse perspectives of what and how to “do church” it may, in fact, be some of our own assumptions or conclusions that are…well, wrong.
But if I am unwilling to face my misunderstandings, my mistaken assumptions, my misgivings about following Jesus, and any of my other sins, then it my motives probably stem from something other than a decision to be a follower of Jesus, much less rightfully claim Him as my Lord.
Therefore, I will continue to object when told we must “agree to disagree” for the sake of “unity.” If “silence gives its own consent,” then failing to contradict this falsehood is equally heresy. I would enlist you, too, in this cause: Do not let someone preemptively break off the process of deepening our relationships, improving our theology, and more closely following Jesus Christ.
I do not agree to disagree. Instead, I choose to commit to Christ, to you, and to others. I try to understand the substance of our disagreements. I seek to clarify what and how you believe and behave as you do. I want to pursue study and prayer with you (i.e., “theology in community”) to more fully experience our unity, even when our beliefs and behaviors may continue in diversity.
Why? Ultimately, because I put my hope in Christ’s desire to see us be one. I put my trust in the ability of the Holy Spirit to enlighten our understanding of God’s word together. And I set my course by the mark set by the Father to whom Jesus prayed: nothing less than full reconciliation in my relationship with Him, and with you.
The temptation will remain to stop in my tracks, to crawl off the altar, or even to lay aside the cross I am called to carry. But even though I am not in free-fall with Alice, there is nowhere else the path leads. All that is left to me is to follow, or let my life grind to a halt.