“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world,
Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
That song has been a staple in Sunday Schools since I was wearing diapers, and long before. And it expresses a noble theme – that the love of Christ is not racially-based. Jesus saves people from all over the world. In fact, back in the early sixties, when I was singing the song in Sunbeams and Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, the message was radical and counter-cultural for many Baptists across the country.
But I was thinking about something last week, how this song is indicative of a very normal human response – one that we need to be aware of and keep in check – the tendency to magnify our differences.
I’m a white guy. But, having spent several of my growing up years in Taichung, Taiwan and in Central and South Florida, I have a perma-tan that leaves me anything but white. If you painted your walls to match my skin tone, no one would say, “Wow, I love the white you used here.” I’m more of a “medium tan.” But I’m white guy.
And we call people of African descent, “black.” Really? Black? I have a “black” friend whose skin is hardly darker than mine. Yes, there are some Africans (I saw many during my trip to Tanzania) whose skin tone is very dark, but still, they are hardly black.
And, of course, I’m pretty sure that Native Americans aren’t crazy about the designation “red” any more than Asians like to be caricatured as “yellow.” But neither designation is accurate, either.
This song presents a noble sentiment, but I think it also demonstrates a very human problem. We tend to magnify our differences. Black and white? No, we aren’t. We are a generally lighter shade of brown versus a generally darker shade of brown. Red and yellow? Not really.
It is a natural human tendency to focus on and magnify those things which separate us.
This is especially true on blogs. In my six years as a part of the Baptist Blogging Brigade I have had arguments about ecclesiology and baptism and Calvinism and a hundred other things. I think each of them is important in their own way. But the natural tendency is to magnify our differences and our offenses and assume that those who differ are seeking to undermine truth, justice and the American way instead of differing over points of theology that do not affect the story of Christ. Contrary to some, I think blogging discussion has a valid point and can be helpful. But we need to remember the context of our discussions and we need to keep that in mind as we interact.
I started blogging because I did not want the Baptist Identity group to set the direction of the SBC. I still don’t. But a funny thing happened along the way. Some of those guys whom I fought so hard against actually became friends. They will never agree with me, nor will I with them, about some of the finer points of that doctrine. But within the context of the Christian world, our differences are minuscule.
Think about it. What are the key issues of baptism?
- That baptism should only be performed on someone who has professed clearly their personal faith in Jesus Christ.
- That baptism is by immersion only.
- That baptism is a symbol of salvation and not a salvific sacrament.
- That baptism must be done in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Agree. Agree. Agree. Agree.
Where do we differ?
Well, we all agree that normally baptism should be performed under the authority of a local church. Where we disagree is on the degree of necessity of that oversight. And we disagree on whether baptism is valid if it is performed in a church that does not hold to our view of eternal security.
In other words, we AGREE on far more about baptism that we disagree. But in our rhetoric, we sometimes act as if we practice completely different views baptism. Simply not true.
Now, I don’t want to focus on the BI movement and its view of baptism, I only use that as an illustration. My point is that blogging leads us to a natural tendency to magnify our differences and minimize our points of agreement. That’s natural, but we need to understand it. The same is true of our discussions of Calvinism, of the GCR and other leadership issues, and many others. People who agree about 95% of issues are blogging about the 5% in which we disagree. Let’s keep that perspective in min.
Have you heard this old cherry of a joke? It’s told in different ways, but this is the gist of it. It gets at the heart of what I’m trying to say today.
Die, Heretic Scum!
Walking across a bridge, I saw a man on the edge, about to jump. I ran over and said: “Stop. Don’t do it.”
“Why not?” he asked.
“Well, there’s so much to live for!”
“Are you religious?”
He said: “Yes.”
I said: “Me too. Are you Christian or Buddhist?”
“Me, too. Are you Catholic or Protestant?”
“Me, too. Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?”
“Me, too. Are you Baptist Church of God or Church of the Lord?”
“Baptist Church of God.”
“Me, too. Are you original Baptist Church of God, or Reformed Baptist Church of God?”
“Reformed Baptist Church of God.”
“Me, too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?”
He said: “Reformation of 1915.”
I said: “Die, heretic scum,” and pushed him off.
As we continue to hammer out our differences in the blogging world, let us remember that we are not fighting the “heretic scum” on Baptist blogs, but we are discussing with our Baptist brothers (and the occasional sister) how to best proclaim the gospel of Christ.