May Our Sad Divisions Cease*
Dear brothers and sisters in the diocese,
I was struck by a scene in one of the most recent episodes of the online series The Chosen (see below**). Jesus’ new disciples Peter and Matthew get into a heated argument. Matthew is depicted as the tax collector who had made Peter’s life financially miserable.
What struck me again was how Jesus chose his disciples from radically different backgrounds, including their politics. Matthew had worked for the government, and Simon Peter was a Galilean fisherman and taxpayer. The other Simon, identified as the Zealot, would have been in favor of a violent government overthrow. Yet Jesus taught them to love each other as they sought first the Kingdom of God.
Sadly the Church in our nation reflects many of the divisions in our culture. Anglicans and other biblically-centered Christians are often in heated debates, especially online, debates similar in tone to the one I saw depicted in The Chosen.
I have found a recent article by the author Kevin DeYoung to be very useful in understanding the motivations behind some of our divisions. While DeYoung is writing to his own part of the Church, it applies to us Anglicans as well. I strongly recommend that you read it, both to understand your own positions and also to realize that other committed believers approach various issues very differently. My hope is that we will learn to listen better and give more grace to one another with the Lord’s help. Please take a look.
My additional hope is that we as Christians will stop using social media as a battleground for pressing our own positions. That only increases our divisions. If you haven’t looked at it recently, please review Archbishop Beach’s A Christian Code of Ethics for Using Social Media. It is biblical and critically important. (If you are regularly tempted to react too negatively, or to become discouraged in comparing your life to others, prayerfully consider getting off social media altogether.)
The world is turned off by Christians wrangling with one another. Remember this clear word from Jesus:
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
In the love of Jesus,
The Rt. Rev. Neil G. Lebhar
Bishop of the Gulf Atlantic Diocese
*A phrase from the hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”
** The Chosen is a powerful and creative look at the life and ministry of Jesus. It is well done, with very good writing, acting, and production. It is not an attempt to simply bring Bible stories to life. Rather it is more like historical fiction, where scenes and backstories are invented in order to make the characters come alive. This approach is often intriguing, but of course, it is speculative, and no replacement for the Scriptures themselves. I certainly commend checking it out. Honestly, I found the approach strange a first. But by the third episode of the first season, I appreciated it much more. The series is meant to serve as an encouragement for Christians and as a winsome call for others to consider Jesus. You can watch all of Season 1 and the current episodes of Season 2 here: https://watch.angelstudios.com/thechosen.