Posted tagged ‘Unity’

Eat the Meat and Spit Out the Bones

May 4, 2011

A phrase that I learned early on in my ministry is “eat the meat and spit out the bones.”  Let me explain what I mean: You will always encounter people that you don’t agree with.  Sometimes these disagreements are major, sometimes they are minor, but they will always be there.  And I’m sure that all of you will agree with me when I say that nothing seems to encourage disagreements more than theology.  I’ve seen way too many people who call themselves Christians get in huge arguments over theological issues that really don’t matter.  Please do not misunderstand what I am saying – I am in no way, shape, or form a Universalist.  I believe in absolute truth and that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God.  I believe in heaven and hell and that the only way to get to heaven is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  However, with that being said, there are grey areas in Scripture.  Places where things are open for interpretation.  This is one of the reasons we have so many denominations.

So, what do you do when you encounter someone who believes differently than you?  I’m not talking about Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, etc.  I’m talking about fellow Christ-Followers who just happen to believe differently on certain issues.  The best advice I can give is to eat the meat and spit out the bones.  In other words, focus on what you have in common (the meat) and ignore your differences (the bones).  Sometimes it’s like a t-bone steak, mainly meat with a little bit of bone.  Other times it’s like BBQ spare ribs, lots of bone and a little bit of meat.  But it’s essential, especially in rural ministry, to focus on the meat and ignore the bones.

Why is this essential in rural ministry?  Because in metropolitan areas it’s very easy to blend in and hide.  You can have people living on the same street, within just a few hundred yards of each other, and be complete strangers.  This is not the case in rural ministry where everybody knows everybody.  When you live in the sticks it’s almost impossible to remain anonymous.  Everyone knows all the pastors in the area and who goes to what church.  What kind of witness do we give our communities when all we do is fight amongst ourselves?  Jesus told us in John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV)  Wow, people will know that we are disciples of Jesus if we love one another.  How are we doing with that?

There’s a story from the early days of my ministry that illustrates this point well.  The first week I was at my church one of the other local pastors stopped by my office.  He introduced himself and then said “I was hoping that we could work together as teammates instead of competing like competitors.”  I’ve been teammates with that pastor for the last 10 years.  In fact, he’s become a very dear friend.  We have our theological differences for sure, but I’ve discovered that we have far more in common than not.  By working together we’ve accomplished much more for the Kingdom of God than we ever could by fighting and arguing.

With all this being said I know that sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand.  That sometimes our theological differences are just too great for us to work together.  But I have found this to be the exception rather than the rule.

So how about you?  Where do you draw the line in the sand?  How differently would someone have to believe before you could no longer call them a brother or sister in the faith?  Leave a comment below.