A news item on this radio this morning about opposing viewpoints sparked a memory.
Some years ago, in different town and church from where we are now, my husband had spoken to the pastor privately about what we sensed as a subtle shift. It wasn’t a major problem at that point, but if it continued it would lead to a major drift from the church’s position as it was when we had first come. The pastor graciously heard him, and at some point made the comment that the church needed the more conservative members to keep it from going too far and the more adventurous members to keep it from being stuck in the status quo.
I hadn’t thought about that before, but the idea came up again in a series at the same church on spiritual gifts. Everything I had ever read or any little “test” I had taken before all concentrated on you and finding out what your gifts are, but this particular study went further and studied the issue from various angles. One angle was the potential clash between people with various gifts.
There is a certain tension between opposing viewpoints: those who want change vs. those who want sameness; those whose natural stance is “Let’s do it now!” vs. those who who say, “Let’s think about it first.” This tension between opposing viewpoints, personalities, and gifts can exist in government, families, churches, clubs, any organization of more than one person.
But it’s not all bad. It keeps us in balance. It helps us consider other sides of issues, other consequences to actions. It helps expose our own weaknesses.
Years ago when a very big, important issue came up for a church vote, and everyone voted “yes” with no discussion, the pastor was concerned that people hadn’t really taken time to consider the issue. He would rather have the discussion out then rather than later on after action had been taken. He wanted unity, yes, but not “yes men” who do whatever the leadership thinks without thinking on their own. That can backfire: a dear pastor friend was voted out for “running the church into debt” when of course he had not done so singlehandedly. His church had voted every step of the way to all the projects being voted on, yet when crunch time came they blamed the leader. Most good leaders would much rather have the discussions, questions, doubts, etc., out on the table and have an opportunity to work them out ahead of time and then approach the action with unity, than to have everyone seem to be in unity at first and then fragment afterward.
In the area of spiritual gifts, those with the gift of mercy might be moved with compassion and immediately want to help in a certain situation while others with the gift of discernment want to hold back and check into the situation a little more thoroughly first. They keep each other in balance. That’s one of many reasons a church is made up of people with varying gifts working together as a whole. If a church’s members all had the gift of mercy, it would likely go bankrupt soon as it ran out of funds. If a church’s members all had the gift of evangelism, it would have a lot of new members but not much depth if there were none gifted to teach. Yet those different giftings and emphases can cause tension between them.
I’m thinking that the tension between two opposing forces might be the essence of balance (if my physics major husband were here, I would ask him). Think of a plane flying: there is the pull of gravity to keep it from flying off into space, but the tension of speed, wind, and air currents to enable it to fly. There is tension in a sewing machine to enable the threads from top and bottom to secure the fabric between: a tension set too tight or too loose causes problems. There is a certain tension in gears and machinery.
Within Christendom, we’re called to love those with an opposing viewpoints (I’m talking here about Christians with the same bedrock doctrinal truths who might differ in other ways, not taking a soft stance on false doctrine, though of course we’re to love folks in that situation, too, yet love God’s truth enough to defend it), to remember they belong to the same God and the same family we do and to remember that we need each other and that God made us each with all our differences. We can, or should be able to, air differences of opinion without the heat and hatefulness the world displays. When the tension is set the right way, we keep each other in balance.