Don’t believe the lie!

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During January, our month of prayer, I tried to engage in conversation with those who think and believe differently to me. My aim was not to preach but to listen, to learn, to gauge how others perceive Christians and the Church. Sadly, one thing soon became clear, many see the Church as divided and unloving and I began to understand their point of view. Jesus said His followers would be identified by their love for each other (John 13:35) yet we seem to be failing miserably. Some argue there are now between 30,000 and 40,000 Christian denominations, different groups often with the same core beliefs but differentiating themselves in style and practise. We don’t present a united front; it seems we can’t even love each other. The Anglican Church is again in the spotlight as they decide how to respond to an open letter ‘calling on the Church of England to repent of its ‘second class citizen’ treatment of Christians over issues of sexuality’ and to act in ‘Christ-like love towards those who have been ignored and vilified for too long’. However they choose to respond, not everyone will agree and sooner or later a split seems inevitable and those looking in from outside the Church just don’t get it. They do not see the problem; to them it demonstrates a lack of love, a contradiction to the way followers of Jesus are supposed to act and so Christians are labelled hypocrites. But don’t believe the lie: disagreement and love are not mutually exclusive. This will shock you, but my wife doesn’t always agree with me. I never doubt her love or question our marriage but we see and do things differently. Disagreement doesn’t have to end in divorce and being different doesn’t mean we can’t be united. Christians believe in one Church under one Lord, Jesus Christ. The Church is not a building it is a community of unique, diverse and imperfect people. We are passionate, devoted and desperately trying to love as Jesus loved us but flawed people sometimes get it wrong. The standard is high! True love is not uniformity it embraces those who are different, subdues personal preference and can hold together diversity. Love doesn’t point the finger, keep a record of wrongs, give up at the first obstacle or silence the truth. I understand why people view the Church as divided and unloving and sometimes we are, but perhaps it depends on the definition of love used to measure the Church against?

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