snubnosed in alpha

Christian reflections on the way the world is and ways the world might be

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Mark of a Christian

“Before a watching world, an observable love in the midst of difference will show a difference between Christians’ differences and other men’s differences. The world may not understand what the Christians are disagreeing about, but they will very quickly understand the difference of our differences from the world’s differences if they see us having our differences in an open and observable love on a practical level”
- Francis Schaeffer, The Mark of a Christian in The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer, IV. 201

When I read The Mark of a Christian in college, Schaeffer’s challenge to Christians to disagree in such a way as to make our mutual love and respect for one another palpable moved me to repentance. Many of us have been there, especially we Calvinists. By the time I read this little book of Schaeffer’s much of my young Calvinist arrogance had thankfully died away. But still enough of it lingered in my soul for conviction to set in upon the reading of The Mark of a Christian. Several passages have been weighing heavily upon my heart in these recent dark days.
Schaeffer goes on to say that though non-believers may not understand the contours of the Christians’ doctrinal disputes, they should still be able to see in our conduct something fundamentally different from the standard procedures of the world. “As a matter of fact, we have a greater possibility of showing what Jesus is speaking about here, in the midst of our differences, than we do if we are not differing. Obviously we ought not to go out looking for differences among Christians; there are enough without looking for more…. When everything is going well and we are all standing around in a nice little circle, there is not much to be seen by the world. But when we come to the place where there is a real difference, and we exhibit uncompromising principles but at the same time observable love, then there is something that the world can see, something they can use to judge that these really are Christians, and that Jesus has indeed been sent by the Father.”
Schaeffer continues, “There is only one kind of person who can fight the Lord’s battles in anywhere near a proper way, and that is the person who by nature is unbelligerent. A belligerent man tends to do it because he is belligerent; at least it looks that way. The world must observe that when we must differ with each other as true Christians, we do it not because we love the smell of blood, the smell of the arena, the smell of the bullfight, but because we must for God’s sake. If there are tears when we must speak, then something beautiful can be observed.”
This observable love and this eschewing of contentiousness is what Schaeffer calls “the final apologetic.” The world observing this behavior in us will know that the Father has indeed sent His Son and that we do indeed belong to Him (John 13:34-35). Schaeffer notes, “If, when we feel we must disagree as true Christians, we could simply guard our tongues and speak in love, then in five or ten years the bitterness could be gone. Instead of that, we leave scars—a curse for generations. Not just a curse in the church, but a curse in the world…. The world looks, shrugs its shoulders, and turns away. It has not seen even the beginning of what Jesus indicates is the final apologetic—observable oneness among true Christians who are truly brothers in Christ.”
If I could, I would produce the book in its entirety here on my blog, I think it so relevant to the current circumstances here at Westminster. Some of the goings on here as of late have mirrored the policies of the world almost to perfection. I find myself poring over Schaeffer’s words and thinking to myself again and again, “How did it come to this?” Brothers and sisters, here and now our conduct will decide whether we shall be salt and light or bitterness and darkness; a blessing or a curse. Let us repent of differing the way the world differs, weep for those who do “the work of the Lord” with a high look and a proud heart, and tremblingly prefer being quenched with our quenched King to being amongst the quenchers.
God have mercy on us.


Blogger Tyler1 said...

Thank you David for those kind words that need and must be echoed in our actions. I can relate to the bitterness and infighting that you mentioned, because I have been the worst in regards to pride and snobbery. I pray that true followers of Christ will remember to be gracious for the sake of the gospel.

God Bless you Brother,

1:12 AM  
Blogger Taty said...

Young Calvinistic Arrogance...I can totally relate to that. I am ashamed to admit I was one of those...and I guess I am still fighting that. I still don't get it why theological knowledge and arrogance seem to always go together. Must be our sinfulness that corrupts that which is good. I echo your last sentence: God have mercy on us.

8:39 AM  
Blogger snubnosed in alpha said...

Thanks for the comments, guys. This phenomenon theological sophistication often giving rise to pride, arrogance and dismissiveness is most destructive when it factors into dialogue with Christians with whom we disagree. This attitude of being "more-Reformed-than-thou" is what makes people feel like they need not listen to other people's arguments, answer other people's questions, address other people's concerns, fairly handle other people's positions or, most importantly, respect other people, full stop. I want desperately to be free of that sort of attitude that belittles other Christians, the conclusions they have come to and the specific issues that they wrestle with. Blessings, D.

9:40 AM  

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