The title of this may be a bit deceiving. I’m not going to talk about physical healing here. I absolutely believe physical healing is possible and does happen. I’ve seen it. What is on my mind right now is something worse than physical ailments and infectious diseases.
Right now, as I write this, the largest Protestant Christian Denomination (although it’s not really a denomination) is having it’s its annual convention. The Southern Baptist Convention is holding its first meeting in two years and it appears that the year away didn’t help to temper any division. I am not part of the SBC, but I am a protestant pastor in the US. I do pay attention to religious things that are happening in our culture even if they aren’t directly a part of my community. I have friends who are a part of the SBC and some who are even attending this convention.
The theme this year seems to be division at every turn. If you look at the national headlines you’ll see things like, “Southern Baptist Vote Signals Further Fractures in American Evangelicalism” and “Southern Baptists grapple with race, gender, sex and God in pivotal annual meeting.”
I’m sure not all is bad and negative. There are good conversations and healthy debates going on. Unfortunately, those aren’t the things getting attention. There has been an exodus from the SBC over the past few years. We’ve seen headlines of scandal and abuse. African American pastors have threatened to leave in droves if the SBC condemns Critical Race Theory. Many white pastors have threatened the same if the SBC doesn’t condemn it.
Churches like Saddleback are putting women in ministry and pastoral positions, while other prominent leaders are calling this sinful. Beth Moore and Russel Moore, both prominent and respected Christian leaders, were essentially chased out of the denomination because of this divisive culture. Russell Moore called it “psychological terror.”
All of this begs the question. Is healing possible within the SBC? Is it possible for a group of individuals who are followers of Jesus of Nazareth to come to a place of reconciliation? Or is division imminent? Those questions aren’t only for the SBC.
For several years the United Methodist Church, the second-largest denomination in the US, has been building toward and actively preparing for a dramatic schism. Other denominations have seen similar divisions. My own denomination has its own divisive conversations, often behind closed doors.
So the questions for the SBC are really questions for all Christians. Will those of us who profess to follow Jesus seek reconciliation over division? Will we be willing to lay aside political and cultural ideologies to show love to one another?
Will we heed the words of the apostle Paul? “Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together.” (Eph 4:1-3)
What would the apostle Paul have to say to us today? More importantly, what does Jesus have to say? He told His disciples, “This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” (John 13:35)
The headlines in the news aren’t about how we’re loving one another. They’re about how we’re abusing our positions, oppressing the vulnerable, picking the power of politics, and fracturing the nation. My brothers and sisters, this should not be so.
You could argue that there is a lot of love going on, it’s simply being ignored by the media. I agree.
There are many churches doing many good things in their communities and in the world. Via the internet, I’ve been able to see the Christian response to the recent volcano in Africa, churches help communities after floods, and feed hungry children. I saw Christians help in the middle of the night by giving out free food and resources when an Orlando nightclub was shot up. I’ve seen neighbors mow each other yards, kids deliver groceries to shut-ins, and countless good works of love.
It’s not that we aren’t doing these things as Christians. The problem is that we’re doing other things louder and more. We aren’t loving people so much more than anything else we do. We aren’t known for it.
Let us take the words of Jesus and the apostle Paul seriously.
Let us live as people worthy of the call Jesus gave to each one of us.
Let us conduct ourselves with humility, gentleness, and patience.
Let us accept each other, even those we disagree with, with love
Let us make every effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the PEACE that binds us.
If there is one thing we are known by, let it be our love.
Then healing will begin to happen.