First, on disagreement: There’s an easy optical illusion created by the blessing of God combined with just enough geographical distance for people to look at Moscow from afar and imagine a certain kind of simplistic uniformity. This needs to be countered from time to time by pointing out the fact that not all of our elders have beards. And though this is deeply disturbing to some of us, especially living as we do in northern Idaho, we have firmly resisted the temptation to run the baby-faced (weaker) brethren out of town. As it turns out, to the extent that God has blessed us, it is because He has blessed us with faithful men and women who have been forgiven of their sins, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus, and are filled with the courage and joy of His Spirit. Or another way to put it is that this is pure, insane grace. And it is this grace that is our fundamental unity. It’s what binds us all together. It’s what drives us to trust one another, to submit to one another, to love one another, to forgive one another — because God in Christ has forgiven us. But my point is merely this, when I previously praised differences of opinion and gracious disagreement, I certainly had this foundational grace in mind, which is not some kind of faux-Christian knockoff of the pluralism that shows up in the world like some stripper with a bad botox job who goes by the name “Diversity.” No, Christian diversity is the diversity of the Body of Christ, which is one body because we have one Lord, one faith, one baptism. It is this fundamental unity that we have been given, that we are eager to maintain, and that we are striving for.
Second, when I spoke in praise of disagreement, I should have also said something about kindness. Just because something is true doesn’t mean you must say it then and there. The law of love and the law of kindness insist that we consider our timing carefully. If your wife is in labor with your child, a wise man will not usually bring up any of his wife’s weaknesses or failures at that moment, even if a few of them peek out while she’s bringing a new human being into the world. That would be extraordinarily unkind. A wise man will consider her frame, the glory of childbirth, the mitigating circumstances, etc., and choose to bring up anything that needs addressing at a more opportune moment.
Of course faithful are the wounds of a friend, and that means that sometimes you say hard things to people you greatly admire, love, respect, etc. But it should be remembered that there are also such things as faithless wounds. These are the wounds of enemies, orcs, hags, and trolls. And when the battle lines are drawn, and faithful men go to battle, it’s rarely helpful to bring up your quibbles with their word choice or dress code at that exact moment. It’s like tugging on Aragorn’s armor and suggesting that he adjust the way he’s swinging his sword a little while he’s on the battlefield splitting orc heads left and right. So for example, if you take a peek at the recent comment sections of Douglas Wilson’s blog, you’ll quickly see that he’s not dealing with reasonable Christian people who have reasonable questions (though there may be a few confused folks that got off on the wrong exit). He’s primarily got a mob of angry orcs on his front porch, threatening among other things to kill him if he comes near them (see screenshot below). In other words, reasonable people will have reasonable questions and reasonable differences of opinion, but when the orc horde shows up at Helmsdeep, it is not the time to saunter up to Gimli and give him pointers on his axe hefting. Publicly registering your difference of opinion in a charitable way would not be immoral, but it has a high likelihood of handing large rocks to the orcs who are not charitable or reasonable and already have large trebuchets ready to hand.
So let me plead with you in the name of reason, in the name of sanity, in the name of kindness to think carefully about what sources of information you cite, what you post or link, what you “like,” what you favorite, what you retweet. In more ordinary times, it may be more harmless to be a little more free-spirited and carefree, but for whatever reasons God has, this is no ordinary moment. The orcs are screaming for blood. Or to change the image: You can’t pour a half gallon of blood into the ocean and preface it with a cautionary word to the sharks and really think for a moment that they actually care. You can’t say you don’t mean any disrespect and then post the kind of thing that will attract disrespect and then shrug your shoulders and pat yourself on the back because your intentions were pure and you were only telling the truth.
And that actually brings me full circle to that unifying grace. I don’t believe for a moment that grace obliterates our humanity, our value, or our voice. How could it? Grace is the kindness and favor of God our Maker and Father. On the contrary, grace makes us truly human, restores our value, and gives us a voice. In other words, even though the grace of God is truly radical and insane, like a rollercoaster that takes you down into the grave and back, and this grace will not leave you the same and will change you forever, — it is still a grace to be trusted. People will let you down. You will let other people down. But the grace of Jesus will never fail you, will never let you down, will never leave you or forsake you. This is true for those who have committed great sins, and this is true for those who have been greatly sinned against. And because this is true, you are free to stand with God’s faithful people and be loyal to the people God is loyal to. Not because people are sinless or infallible, but because God is and His grace is your shield.