Now for the hard part ... our chaplain, I soon learned, was a member of a non-Christian cult, but classified and assigned to us as "Protestant" by the military. What to do? After all, Christ said, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters." (Luke 11:23) How could I work alongside one who is working against my Lord?I've been thinking about this in light of a couple of recent developments in our country and in the life of this blog.
I did so, in short, by turning back two chapters in Luke: "... whoever is not against you is for you." (Luke 9:50b) Notice the contrast--one may be against Christ, but not against you--he or she may in fact be a useful ally in your mission! This chaplain was a bearer of a false gospel, but he was also providing me the avenue by which I could minister the true gospel to my fellow trainees.
Last week Senator Arlen Specter changed his party affiliation Democrat, after it became clear that his constant wandering off the Republican reservation had cost him the backing of his erstwhile allies:
Meanwhile, our favorite Evangelical Catholic, Rich, bid us a public farewell:
In the Washington Examiner, Timothy Carney suggested that Specter's defection was prompted by the intention of Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina to back Specter's challenger, which DeMint had confided to Specter about five days before Specter switched. DeMint expressed no regrets: "I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don't have a set of beliefs," he said. The fact that 30 senators cannot make policy didn't deter him at all.
I like to think this kind of cross-cultural dialogue gives the Holy Spirit room to break down the walls that divide us, to show us we really are more alike than we are different.Now the political differences between movement conservatives and Arlen Specter are large and a source of great angst. There is a temptation for Republicans to say "good riddance", especially when Specter's defection was so blatantly unprincipled and self-serving. Yet uneasy coalitions are the stuff of successful political parties.
But, for the most part, things continue as they have for centuries. Few listen to each other. Fewer still are willing to consider Catholics are not fallen, and Protestants are not schismatics.
Frankly, I am weary of it all.
The theological differences between Protestants and Catholics are likewise real and important, and can't merely be waved away by glib appeals to unity. Yet there are times where we need to draw different lines. In the defense of the public defense of marriage and the unborn, for example, Evangelicals are wise to join together in a "coalition of the willing" with Catholics, Mormons, Orthodox Jews, etc.
Likewise, in World War II, faithful Christians were more interested in defending the human rights of the Jews than in "being separate" from them. Among the most memorable was recounted by Corrie Ten Boom in her landmark book, The Hiding Place:
She tells of an incident in which she asked a pastor who was visiting their home to help shield a mother and newborn infant. He replied, "No definitely not. We could lose our lives for that Jewish child." She went on to say, "Unseen by either of us, Father had appeared in the doorway. 'Give the child to me, Corrie,' he said. Father held the baby close, his white beard brushing its cheek, looking into the little face with eyes as blue and innocent as the baby's . 'You say we could lose our lives for this child. I would consider that the greatest honor that could come to my family'".For the purpose of defending innocent lives against Nazi atrocities, Corrie's father had more in common with his Jewish allies than with this pastor, who was at least nominally his brother in Christ.
So where is the line between shrewd coalitions and unequal yokes? When should we accept help from the like-minded and when do we need to "come out from them and be separate"? In general, it seems to me that the line lies at the place where those we are allied with (yoked to) begin to pull us away from a right relationship with God.