Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.
Revelation 22:12-14 (NIV)
There must be a better way to fight about the things we can’t seem to agree on. Consider these four ways to fight clean over doctrine.
1. Keep the cross at the center of your theological system.
I have found it impossible to look up to Jesus and then down my nose at a brother or sister with whom I disagree. A cross-centered theology reminds us to keep the “main thing the main thing” and serves as a helpful compass to navigate the landscape of secondary issues. It also helps us see how much we actually share in common and what serves as the source of unity and hope. When the gospel is the center, everything else becomes appropriately resized.
2. Ask yourself some uncomfortable questions.
We all like to assume that we are as cool as ice when the differences come to light, but is this really the case? Ask yourself these questions: What posture do I take in a doctrinal discussion? Do I quickly become agitated? Do I raise my voice easily? How would my wife or those closest to me people describe me during these kinds of situations? Take it a step further and actually ask them. Their answers may surprise you. And help you.
3. Remember that you probably held the other position not too long ago.
Nearly all pastors and theologians I know continually refine their theology. Sure, we may have the “big things” down, but some theological shifting is natural as we learn, grow, and age. For example, if you subscribe to a more Reformed understanding of the “doctrines of grace,” there is a strong chance that you haven’t always stood where you stand now. The way you present your ideas has a lot to do with how they’re received. Don’t be another “angry Calvinist.” We have enough of them.
4. Pursue humility with the same passion that you pursue clarity.
This may be the most difficult but necessary pursuit of all. Never forget that studying comes with a built-in occupational hazard: pride. It is so easy to live on the wrong side of 1 Corinthians 8:1b: “Knowledge puffs up but love builds up.” As we seek to be diligent in out study, we should seek to be equally diligent in our pursuit of humility. To this end, I try to devote myself to prayer, re-reading Philippians 2, and reflecting on Jesus’ finished work on the cross. As we see the great humility of Jesus, the Spirit will cultivate greater humility in us as well.