Friday, April 22, 2005

Sitting on the fence

As a dyed-in-the-wool, red-blooded conservative, I have always valued decisiveness and conviction. When I vote for a politician, I want a politician in office who agrees with my policy, holds most of my opinions, and will do in office what I elected him to do. After all, I figure, I hired him, so I have a right to hold him to a certain standard--mine. If he doesn't meet it, then maybe I won't be so gung ho about supporting him next time around.

But that's politics, not Christianity. Being a follower of Christ is not a political battle to implement my own sincerely held policy opinions, but a relationship to a Person. I don't have to convert people to all of my opinions in order to convert them to the Messiah.

Thus our relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ have nothing to do with our sincerely held opinions (or differences thereof), with precious few exceptions. We are put into a relationship with each other, not by what position we hold on some issue, or which side of a doctrinal fence we come down on, but by our joint participation--fellowship--koinonia--with Jesus Christ who redeemed us.

Are there issues that God really doesn't care about? Surely, in all of Christendom, there are. Aren't there fences that men have built that God just doesn't recognize? If so, who are we to think we have the fences built just right? In that sense, then, there's not always something so terribly wrong about being "on the fence" on some of the issues that have been contrived by the consciences and intellects of fallible men. A dose of humility is always in order when we're convinced we're on the right side of a particular fence.

That's not to say that there are no fences around Jesus' pasture. It is certainly fenced in, and has only one Door. I would also acknowledge that all of His sheep don't always remain inside the fence of His pasture. Many stray out of the pasture, either by rejecting the good news that once saved them, or choosing to walk away from a life of love and submission to Jesus' leadership. And yes, some think they are in the pasture but aren't, and still more are convinced that the fences they built are the only ones that exist.

Discerning all of this fencing takes a lot of love, knowledge, and wisdom. And that's the key--discerning, not building. Our job as it relates to the fence that Jesus built around his pasture is to make sure we discern where it is when we get close to it, and to help others get inside of it. We don't need to concern ourselves with building the fence, because that is not our job.

It goes against my human desire that truth come in simple soundbites, but I wonder if it is perfectly OK to remain undecided on certain otherwise-contentious issues. It seems that sometimes it is acceptable (even honorable) to sit contentedly on the fence, holding firm and steadfast to my convictions on the subject--that the issue simply doesn't matter, at least not to our salvation. In that case, maybe I'm not really sitting on the fence at all, but recognizing that there isn't one.

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