Monthly Archives: September 2018

This vs. That

First things first.

This post is inspired by the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel that stirred and spurred much discussion among Christians on social media. (By the way, I read and signed it, and I would encourage you to do the same.)

There are a lot of differences between Christians. It can be easy to distort such conflicts as simply an Either/Or binary. Some try to assuage the “other side” by asserting that the Either/Or must instead be understood as Both/And.

But a lot of these differences—at least between true Christians—are differences of emphasis. As I have thought about many internal conversations between Christians of various stripes, I theorize: Some issues truly are Either/Or. Some issues truly are Both/And. But too often overlooked is the possibility that the issue is actually what I have come to call First/Second. This is literally what it means to “prioritize”—to determine what comes first.

Look through this list and see if a prioritizing of the issues between “first” and “second” one way or the other might help to clarify both the division and the unity of various believers.

  • Believing the right things (orthodoxy) vs. living the right way (orthopraxy)
  • Preaching the gospel vs. applying the gospel
  • Worshiping God vs. serving God
  • Emphasizing God’s judgment against sin vs. emphasizing God’s mercy on sinners
  • Scrutinizing what is said (substance) vs. scrutinizing how it is said (optics)
  • Focusing on individual evil (contra righteousness) vs. focusing on societal evil (contra justice)
  • Tending the spiritual needs of people vs. tending the physical needs of people
  • Training up Christians (discipleship) vs. proclaiming the good news to unbelievers (evangelism)
  • Loving God vs. loving one’s neighbor

As I understand each of these vs. statements (and this list could be much longer), each side presents an important issue, and each side offers a complementary truth to its counterpart, but the second item in each pair seems to be contingent on its neighbor. In some way, I believe the items mentioned first must come first, and only then can the second items build on the foundation of the first.

But here I confess, I could very well be wrong. Maybe I have framed this handful of issues unfairly. I don’t think so, I hope not, but it IS possible. And I do not want to be wrong. So, I depend on you, faithful readers, to correct me if I err.

Or maybe I’m right.

Or maybe we’re both wrong, and the truth lies elsewhere.

Pastor Alistair Begg is fond of saying, “The main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things.” Similarly, my dad likes to say, “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.” Brothers and sisters, here’s what I believe is the plainest, “main-est” thing of all: Jesus is Lord.

So, whether you are on “my side” or “the other side” of the debate, or even somewhere in the middle…

Let’s all get our priorities straight.