I’m generally leery of things Brian McClaren writes and says because I don’t agree with him. He uses evangelicalism as his whipping boy and at times attacks the cross and Christianity as too exclusive, voting rather for a watered down social gospel. That being said, in a recent video clip I watched about his newest book, A New Kind of Christianity, he discussed a chapter in the book concerning the Christians engagement with religious others. (Please note that I want to interact with the video clip and not the book.) I was surprised that I actually agreed with what appeared to be the main premise of his argument: Christians, while maintaining their Christian identity, need to find ways to lovingly engage religious others. I have absolutely no problem with that. Admittedly, the stance of Christianity has at times been very cruel and unloving towards those who will not agree with us.
However, we must be clear about what is meant by “Christian identity” and the term, “loving.” Definitions of love are varied and many times incompatible with Scripture. To most people in religious circles today, love = tolerance. We only truly love people when we accept what they believe as “true” (especially that of ultimate reality), and affirm it with as much validity as we do our own “truth.” This simply is not what love is. Furthermore, the engagement of Christianity with religious pluralism is not the collision of nice vs. mean people (although this is the way it is usually portrayed and which side of the debate you’re on will dictate whether or not you’re the nice or mean person), but of two completely different worldviews that CANNOT co-exist together no matter how hard one tries to make them. The Christian gospel is that Jesus alone is King (as proven by his death and resurrection), and that salvation is found in no other name but Jesus. It is an exclusivistic message. In certain places, no matter how much love you preach this message with, it will be received with anger and persecution (i.e. Jesus – who was more loving than him). Jesus says this in Matthew 10:5-42. As Jesus sends the disciples out he warns them that persecution awaits them. He tells them they will be handed over to courts and flogged. In light of all of this, he tells them to be as “wise as serpents and gentle as doves.” He then says in 34-39, that he hasn’t come to bring peace to the earth, “but a sword.” This gospel concerning him is like a sword that will disrupt all human relationships, including the most intimate, those within the family.
Should Christians have a loving disposition towards unbelievers and those of other religious faiths? Yes! Absolutely! Just because we are right does not give us license to be Jerks (and yes, I am aware of how arrogant that first part sounded…..but I say it in love.) However, at times this will mean that Christian must say and do things that will be perceived by an unbelieving world as unloving. As we preach the gospel message of Christ, we too will be wielding a sword. A scalpel to those who recognize the sickness of sin and rebellion, and a weapon to those who hate the true King of this world.