Not long ago, I was in the midst of disagreement with another Christian because of our differing interpretations of a particular teaching on something somewhere in Scripture. The other Christian appealed to the idea that because we’re believers, we should come to the same conlusion for the sake of Christian unity. There was just one problem – there was no way that I was goving to move from my position to theirs or vise versa. We can’t even meet on the middle on this one because our interpretations are mutually exclusive.
It was easy for me to imagine our disagreement in the context of a blood feud: Christianity used to be one not-so-happy but not always unhappy family. At some point, two relatives began to fight over something and it came to blows. Members of the family took sides and pretty soon their split turned into an impassible divide. But something happened – the first generation died. The next generation was born into this “us” against “them” fight, was taught that they were on the right ride and the others were on the wrong side. They continued their parent’s fight. When they died, this feud was passed down from one generation to the next, sometimes calling a temporary truce, but usually making things worse in the long run with betrayal and finding brand new ways to perpetuate an age old conflict.
Here we are having spent the better part of two millenia continuing to fight each other – chosing our words to be our weapon against our distant cousins. Do we know why we fight? No – the whole story was lost a long time ago. But that’s not a problem because the preceeding generations made more enemies by in-fighting and continued splits. So when two people go to do battle online in one of those “this is why I’m right and you’re wrong” forums, the idea of calling it even for the sake of unity sounds like much too little and way too late.
At this point – there’s probably no way for us to bridge the divide – for every point in Scripture that inspired a schism, there are at least two, if not more possible interpretations. Each person that holds onto one of them sees it as being right and all others as wrong. Using logic and emotion won’t sway all people to the same belief – and that’s why at the heart of it all, true unity cannot be achieved. Only one person can settle the score for all sides – God. Until then, the best we can hope for to stop teaching each other to fight those we don’t agree with, but to respect each other’s differences and love them as people. I think that’s why they call it the Golden rule.