June 28, 2021 | Stories by Linda Opp
This will come as no surprise, but Christians disagree. Regularly and loudly. We're on the same team, but we have different ideas. What's the best way to do worship, to disciple young believers, to build community, to teach young children about the Bible? And when we're discussing an issue or conflict from the past, we may not even remember it the same way.
Recently my oldest brother and I reminisced about growing up on the family farm in North Dakota. One of my best memories is of falling asleep on summer nights listening to the comforting clink of the hog feeder, a sound like soft, distant chimes. The sound was produced by hog snouts pushing up the twenty little doors on the feeder, and then letting them drop when the snout was removed. The clinking told me all was right with the world.
When I shared this lovely bit of nostalgia with my brother, he laughed.
Turns out it was his job to keep the hog feeder filled. This was a complicated process of hitching a gravity box full of rolled oats to a tractor, hitching an auger behind that, driving the entire apparatus into the smelly hog pen, and backing it up to the hopper that filled the feeder. The hogs swarmed the tractor, fighting with each other and squealing, often turning the hopper upside down in the pandemonium. The pen was filled with mud and flies, and the air swirled with oat dust that made him itch the rest of the day. It was a huge, stinky mess.
So when my brother listened to the hog feeder on summer nights, he felt only dread. Each clink brought him another moment closer to enduring the tractor-auger-hopper-fighting-squealing-itchy-muddy ordeal all over again.
Two perspectives, very different, but both valid. I had no idea the road to bacon, pork chops and Easter ham was so difficult, and my brother had no idea I was being lulled to sleep by the music of the hated hog feeder. My brother and I remember the same event from radically different angles, but we're unified by the common ground of being part of the same family.
It's normal for individual Christians to have different perceptions about how to do things. If we're not dealing with a core doctrinal teaching, then we need to learn from perspectives other than our own.
It was said of the early church in the Roman Empire, “Behold how they love one another.” They took care of each other, rescued orphans and raised them as their own, saved babies who had been left to starve, took care of widows, fed the hungry, and visited the sick. This stood out because it was so alien to the culture. It was the impetus for remarkable church growth.
I'd guess the early Christians didn't all agree with each other on every little thing, and that there were some heated discussions on how to do ministry. They were human, after all. We know for a fact there were theological disagreements as well, hammered out over years of councils that produced the Nicene Creed, the Apostle's Creed and the Athanasian Creed.
But the overriding fact is that they loved God and each other and the unbelieving world. They were united in their mission to build God's kingdom.
Loving our Christian brothers and sisters needs to be what we're known for as well. We're unified by the common ground of being part of the same family. Let the surrounding culture say of us, “Look how much they love each other.”
Jesus said it best. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).