Reflecting on the Two Different Spirits Guiding the Christian Church

Donald Miller

What I love about our faith is it’s power to reconcile. At the birth of the Christian community, just after Christ went to be with the Father, the Spirit was sent to reconcile Jews and Gentiles (and yes, even Muslims) with no shortage of truth. But the spirit of that movement was love and peace, even if it caused an enormous amount of tension.

In history, there are very few movements that involve strong, unshakeable statements of truth of which people did not lift a weapon to defend. But our faith didn’t work that way. Our leaders didn’t lift weapons. Instead they were persecuted. They died for Christ, they didn’t kill for Christ.

Today, Christians have power. The scene has changed. Even in smaller degrees, Christian leaders no longer perceive themselves as the underdog. Pastors of mega-churches see themselves, within the body, as power brokers, able to yield large weapons of social pressure. The scene is often not pretty.

I sometimes wonder if leaders like Billy Graham aren’t the Christian movements Martin Luther King’s, while other leaders are more like Malcolm X. Both kinds of leaders want the same agenda, kind of, but the power-brokering Christian leaders are willing to lash out verbally or bully from their pulpits. They lead through intimidation and fear. I think the differentiation is important to note. There are two movements growing within Christian culture in America. Both are telling the same truth, but they are driven by different spirits. I’m convinced one of them is not of God because it looks so different than the loving spirit of both Christ and the early disciples.

It is possible to speak God’s truth through Satan’s dialect and too many Christian leaders are doing it.

We’ve all met believers who use the Bible to gain power and control over others. But this isn’t the spirit of Christ we see in the Bible. It’s the spirit of the world. And it’s tempting. Being right feels good. But let’s not fall for it. If we do, we are just like every other fighting faction in humanity. We are no different.

If we associate our identities with dogma rather than the person of Christ, we will become just like everybody else, buried under the spirit of the age. Satan uses Scripture, too. God’s motive for using scripture is to set people free and reconcile them to himself and others. Satan’s motive for using scripture is to give them control over themselves, God and others and to divide and instigate a fight.

Does truth divide? Certainly. But lets not get confused.

*Photo by Satomi Ichimura, Creative Commons

When I think about Christ being the Prince of Peace and also coming to divide families, I picture Martin Luther King, Jr. marching across the bridge in Salma, Alabama.

It was a tense scene, to be sure, and the movement he championed would divide a nation. And yet, the tension caused wasn’t caused with violence, it was caused with non-violent resistance. Love our enemies was the “battle cry” of a great portion of the civil rights movement. Turning the other cheek was the command of the day. And it worked. Sometimes turning the other cheek creates tension. But the tension is theirs, not ours. Those who want power see a threat to non-violent resistance. People who only know how to go to war have no idea what to do with love. And they don’t want love because love doesn’t offer them power.

When we threaten to abandon those who disagree with us we are participating in the spirit of the world. Saying farewell to those whose doctrines are not like ours is cooperating with the power-mongering spirit of the world. A world that seeks temporary power, like a man getting his blows in on his way to the executioners chamber. This is a far cry from the spirit of Christ who died forgiving his enemies, an action that was repeated by his disciples, too. Next time a Christian leader threatens to abandon and divide because somebody doesn’t agree with Him, lets just call it right then and there. This leader is not under the influence of Christ. At least not at that moment.

What is the self righteous man defending? Why is he lashing out? He’s defending his own truth, rather than a truth that has changed his heart into a loving, humble child of God. And the truth, without love, simply corrupts. There’s nothing magic about right facts. In fact, the Bible warns that knowledge can make us arrogant. It certainly has.

In our everyday lives, this looks like disagreeing while still being truly loving, and even going so far as to honor the nobility and dignity of all of God’s creation. Our love is not a statement of agreement, it is, rather, a powerful statement about the power of the spirit of Christ.

Loving those who disagree with us differentiates us from the spirit of the world and makes a powerful statement about the relevancy of Christ and His mission to reconcile all people to Himself, and to each other.

Reach out to those who disagree with you and truly validate their humanity. God does. Because, after all, the chances of all our ideas being right are a billion to one, and God validates us all the same. He does this because He loves us. His children don’t need to be right to be loved.

Have you ever seen similarities between the spirit of the world and the spirit you’ve seen in Christian communities? What would it look like to speak truth, without abandoning, those who want to go the Malcolm X way of generating Christian power?

-Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller is all about story. He helps people live a better story at creatingyourlifeplan.com and grow their business at storybrand.com. Follow Don on Twitter (@donaldmiller). To read more of his posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.