So often lately, as I've become more and more controversial and outspoken with my convictions, I've felt the tension both internally and externally, to keep my differences silent and just abide by a "live and let live" attitude. After all, aren't Christians called to unity? Aren't we supposed to focus on our similarities, not our differences? Paul even says in Ephesians 4:1-3 that we are to seek unity among our brothers and sisters.
But wait a minute. Aren't we also challenged to sharpen one another (Proverbs 27:17)? And how can we sharpen one another if we are too afraid to get a little "controversial"? How can we sharpen one another if we are afraid to offend? I don't believe any of my Christian friends would need me to sharpen them on core doctrines...those things upon which we can all agree. It is the "gray" areas that become difficult to navigate at times. But the Bible gives us direction for all areas of life (2 Peter 1:3). And in our modern culture, it seems there are so many "new" things that the Bible does not specifically address. Yet, the Bible does in fact speak to all these things, as we are told in the passage in Peter.
So, it seems we are called, to some extent, to challenge one another in the uncomfortable things...The things that make us defensive, nervous, and perhaps even angry. And we don't do it because we want to stir up trouble. We do it because we love the brethren (1 Peter 1:22) and are called to be challenging one another, no matter what our culture preaches about unity and getting along.
No, the call to Christian unity does not mean that I keep my personal convictions silent. It means that I share them with love, not harshness, for the sake of edification. And it means that Christians don't get so offended when a brother or sister in Christ does this. We seek unity, even in our exhortation. We seek to find common ground, yet be open to exploring our differences with an open heart to what God may show us in order to grow us. We can all learn from each other, whether or not we ultimately agree or disagree. And, hear this, disagreement does not equal disunity. I disagree with a lot of my friends on things I find very, very important. Yet, I still love them and consider us unified as Christians because we are unified in Christ.
You see, sometimes I think the problem is not as much with those sharing their convictions as it is with those who are listening. If we all truly want unity, we will be willing to listen, rather than expect others to simply be quiet. We will be willing to then offer our own convictions in return. It is an "iron sharpening iron" process, not a knife throwing contest (with the target being each other). And this Biblical process is beautiful when done in love! What are we so afraid of?
So, please forgive me when I offend. It is not my heart to offend. And please sharpen me, as well! But seek unity, as I do, in the sometimes painful sharpening process. It is a process of friction and removing tiny pieces of the knife in order to sharpen. It requires an open spirit on both sides, one that is willing to deal with the friction and the possibility of losing something, for the ultimate goal of sanctification. Because the key to sanctification is a love for truth more than a love for being "right". And one of the most beautiful testaments to the power of the love of Christ is our Christian unity despite our differences of conviction. The world will not see that if we are too afraid to challenge one another in love.