Christian Conversation Done Right

I had a great conversation with a friend yesterday that I felt ought to be shared. I obviously won’t share his name or information, but I was so excited to have a conversation that wasn’t started in attack mode!

I had a great conversation with a friend yesterday that I felt ought to be shared. I obviously won’t share his name or information, but I was so excited to have a conversation that wasn’t started in attack mode! He didn’t question my beliefs, try to throw scripture in my face, or even tell me that I was deceived. Below is the majority of that conversation. Enjoy! (Used with his permission)

HIM:
Hey David, I started reading your blog posts. I’m glad your writing about your journey. I have had friends who have gone through the same journey, but they don’t have the ability to write out their struggles, thoughts and feelings. I am always seeking understanding from other viewpoints so I can be a better communicator.

Your posts help me understand your perspective and that’s really valuable. I agree on a lot of the issues, I may not agree on some of the solutions, but I think above all we agree that no one has a the full revelation of God. We all view things through our experiences, hurts, and triumphs and it’s important we respect and honor people through our differences.

I admit I haven’t gotten through all the posts yet, but I do have a question.

I understand we love everyone regardless of identity and sin, but sometimes I find the gospel is a powerless victim to the abundant love message because it no longer has the right to change people.

When a child hears he must change, but it can be misconstrued as hate. The child’s view of love may be complete acceptance. When a father tells his child to change from destructive behavior, the father sees it as love.

So my question is, do we have a revelation of the Father’s love or the child’s view of love?

That would be an interesting blog post to read! Thanks for taking a risk and stepping out.

ME:
Before I begin, I’d like to make sure that you’ve started with my post, “The Baby and The Bathwater.” In it, I cover how I’ve admittedly used a tone in my previous posts that didn’t reflect Love. My intention in this conversation and future posts is to speak my thoughts, interpretations, and opinions with Love. I’m a work in progress when it comes to my writing. I’ll get it right.

Ok, I’ve been thinking about your question/statement. First, I think you have to decide how you interpret the gospel, and what you think it is. Second, you also have to decide what sin looks like in light of that, and how the “love message” affects both sin and the gospel from your perspective.

For instance, I believe the gospel and the “love message” to be one and the same. I take the perspective that Jesus’ life was a reflection of the father. Who is God? God is Love. “Jesus, what is the MOST important command?” – “Love God…love your neighbor.”

In other words, “Reflect God’s love unto Him and to everyone else. Be Love (as God).”

As for sin, there are moral absolutes that certainly qualify as sin: murder, rape, abuse, etc. All of the rest that most of Christianity would classify as “sin” is, what I believe to be, that which falls under personal conviction.

Example: It’s definitely not as taboo today as it was even 20 years ago, but a lot of the Christian faith finds it sinful to drink alcohol. Personally, I don’t take issue with it at all. In fact, I really like beer, Lindsey likes wine/mixed drinks. We have friends that we enjoy spending time with, and we’ll all hang out and have a couple of drinks together (or even homebrew together). I don’t have a conviction of sin concerning alcohol.

I know others that definitely do. Some of them just feel super convicted about it, while others are former alcoholics. Drinking for any of those folks would be sinful because they’re going against their convictions.

See the difference between the moral absolutes and personal convictions? Sin is definitely sin no matter how you cut it, but I submit that what may be sin for you might not be sin for someone else – save the moral absolutes.

Moreover, I believe that all sins of morality fall under an all-inclusive umbrella. That umbrella of sin is anything that dehumanizes a person. If you really think about it, can you think of one moral absolute that doesn’t consider that? I can’t. Actually, even convictional sin falls under that umbrella because you’d technically be dehumanizing yourself by sinning against your convictions.

Therefore, the gospel at its core requires a change. It requires Love – respect of all human life. Without that, the gospel is simply rules and regulations that men have conjured up out of their own personal convictions. The true gospel necessarily is Love. If we as Jesus followers understood that about Jesus – about the gospel – and followed it blindly, how much different would Christianity appear to the world?

HIM:
Well we agree on a lot! And I’m in the middle of processing a lot of this so forgive me if I ramble.

Alcohol for me was a personal choice that wasn’t a sin until I started abusing it, so now I don’t partake. That’s my personal conviction not a moral absolute. I will warn people because of what I went through, but it’s not a “don’t drink or you’ll go to hell” thing.

Part of the danger, I think, of everything being acceptable – and not warning people about it – is people like me who go too far and have to find their way back.

It reminds me of the scripture everything is permitted but not everything is beneficial. We need wisdom married to grace. I agree there are moral absolutes. I think though the Bible sets a higher standard than what our culture would say are the moral absolutes. There lies the gray area.

What is absolute truth? Does culture shape truth? Does the gospel change when culture shifts? The impossible rules of the Old Testament meets the impossible grace of the New Testament and we’re in middle putting together all the pieces. Is it love to never tell someone what they’re doing is wrong? Jesus told the women in adultery to go and sin no more. I’m not talking about yelling this out on the street corner, but out of relationship with people, iron sharpens iron, you become closer to Christ together.

We all have to change. That was the reason for my first question. Does the gospel have the right to require change? And you agree it does with the moral absolutes. But does it go deeper?

I have the desire to get so close to God that I won’t haggle over what is sin to me, and what lines can’t I cross. I think the more our focus is on Christ the more the debate subsides. Religion that is sin-focused causes death, relationship that is Christ-focused inspires life.

I do believe that grace goes hand in hand with repentance. Turning away from sin and toward God. Unfortunately, Grace is sometimes viewed as a get out of jail free card. I think it’s important to love people to Christ and show them grace that leads to repentance, not grace that leads to them away from God.

Ultimately, people need to see the love of the gospel, and the power within that changes hearts. I don’t need to debate people out of sin, the conviction of the Holy Spirit works fine. I just need to be there as we pursue God together.

ME:
Yup! I’d also add that Christians should be careful when saying things like “the Bible says…”

The reason being that the Bible might not actually say what they think it does. It may read that way, but there’s a lot more to take into account.

The Bible is full of poems, hymns, mythology, history, and spiritual stories. All of that needs to be taken into account before quoting or reading it a particular way.

It’s also written to particular groups of people in particular places at particular times and cultures. That also has to be considered.

Lastly, the Bible is written in Hebrew and Greek primarily, with some Aramaic as well. Jesus spoke in Aramaic, so we literally have authors recounting his life and stories about 40-95 years after his death, and penning it in a different language than what Jesus spoke. I’m not saying they got it wrong, but I am saying that we definitely can.

All-in-all, I just try erring on the side of Love and grace. If our response to any person is other than that, we’re failing to live the gospel properly, in my opinion.

HIM:
I do believe in the inerrancy of the Bible so we probably disagree there, however I don’t believe in the inerrancy of its interpretation. Context, purpose, people, and culture all have to be studied to understand the Bible fully. There can be abuses in interpreting scripture wrongly, but at its core, an errant Bible to me would mean an errant faith.

Biblical Greek was one of my favorite subjects in Bible school. There truly is a lot to learn from the original language. I think the important thing to understand is to not just sit in a pew and hear these words taught to us but truly study the bible and show ourselves approved.

You have really stirred me up to study more and show myself approved. So thanks for that! I’ll be reading your future posts! And don’t give up on the Bride of Christ. She’s a bunch of dirty, messed up, shofar blowing weirdos, and sometimes I can’t stand them, but Jesus died for Her just like he died for me and you.

I’ll pray through this journey that God reveals his heart to you more and more. You have been given a charge to wake up the church from its slumber, it’s pointless debates, it’s flashy programs, it’s expensive buildings, and simply love people to Christ. Keep strong!

ME:
Thanks, bro. I appreciate you taking the time to start a conversation. Let’s continue it in the future.

HIM:
Definitely, continuing the conversation would be great!

MY TAKEAWAY:

THE NEW YOU
As you’ve read, we have areas that we disagree with one another – grace, love, inerrancy of the Bible – but in the end, slandering each other wasn’t an option. None of us have everything figured out, and it’s likely nobody ever will. That doesn’t mean that we can’t have good, meaningful conversations that help us learn and grow.

As I’ve read back through this post, I can see that there might be some things we didn’t discuss in as much detail as either of us really wanted to. If he’s up to it, perhaps we’ll pick up where we left off and let you in our future conversations as we go deeper.

David Dietz

Author: David Dietz

Born and raised up into leadership in the American Church, David is unlearning Christianity and instead advocates for the full acceptance of others. "To love someone is to allow that person to be fully themselves without interference or expectations of change--to accept them exactly as they are. Loving someone isn't just 'accepting' who they are, however; it's giving them freedom to be a wholly distinct individual. When you love someone so deeply that you relinquish any control or ownership you *think* you have over them, you are showing that person love untainted."