We all have our blind spots. Some of our blind spots can be found where we think we see the blind spots of others. We too often confidently declare that we have exposed an open and obvious contradiction in the other guy’s position, send out funeral announcements and declare ourselves the winner, when what we are actually doing is hanging our ignorance out in the wind. Some of the most frequent questions I receive are all about the other guys- “How do dispensationalists make sense of this text?” Or, “If you were an Arminian, how would you answer this argument?” Sometimes I’m able to give a reasonably able defense of the other guy. Other times I get to give my favorite answer, “I don’t know.”
Here are two such questions that have been on my mind of late. A few Sundays ago as our van labored up the driveway of the local Seventh Day Adventist church where both Saint Peter parishes gathered for worship on Resurrection Sunday, I wondered, “Do Seventh Day Adventists celebrate the resurrection? And if so, on what day?” I have a friend who might be described as a “Seventh Day Baptist.” He is eager, but always gracious in his attempts to win me over to his view. The arguments are not without nuance and subtlety. I have seen Lord’s Day keepers squirm rather much in the face of these arguments. But what about when the shoe is on the other foot? Fifty-one Sundays a year we might face a challenge. But one Sunday, the other guys get to walk a mile in our moccasins.
Even more challenging, and slightly more common is this question. Do my friends who are hard core about the Regulative Principle of Worship, who not only only sing Psalms, but sing them without musical accompaniment, sing those Psalms that enjoin us to praise Him with a lute, and a harp of ten strings? If not, does that make them itchy? If so, do they ever wonder where the instruments went? Again I expect my friends have their answer all ready. I can’t be the first to ask the question. If anyone has one, or an answer to the above question, I’d love to hear it. I don’t, however, want to get involved in debates over the respective issues.
My point here isn’t to ask these particular questions. It is to encourage all of us toward greater grace when dealing with disagreements within the church. If you think you have caught your brother in a glaring contradiction, you probably haven’t. He may be wrong, but if he names the name of Christ, his error is probably a little more subtle than it appears. We Calvinists, for instance, are well aware that the Bible says “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promises as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Our Baptist friends likewise already know that Paul promised the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” We Calvinists are still right with respect to limited atonement, even as our Baptist friends are wrong in withholding the sacrament from the children of the covenant. But in neither case is anyone flagrantly disregarding the plain teaching of Scripture. All of us are wrong from time to time. Few of us, however, gleefully thumb our nose at what we know the Bible says.
When we assume that our brother in the pew (or worse, in the pulpit) is utterly stupid and ignorant, we are acting stupid and exposing our ignorance. We are the blind mocking the blind. Soon enough, we’ll all fall into a pit. Of course we must correct errors, encouraging one another onto righteousness. But let’s give one another a judgment of charity, lest we be judged with an unkind standard ourselves.