Houtz: Break the gridlock

No, I am not getting political in a pastoral column.

We hear gridlock used to describe the current

state of our nation politically, yet we may not realize the church has been in this state for many years.

Too many righteous people think it is compromising their beliefs to work with someone from another denomination or even church of the same denomination.

Such thinking dramatically stifles Christian effectiveness. We have misdiagnosed the enemy.

A word found in Scripture which describes a behavior that is greatly discouraged and possibly the source of our present situation is the Greek word hairesis, sometimes translated as heresies.

There is no doubt this word was used in the 3rd and 4th centuries to distinguish unapproved doctrine, but it may be a mistake to assume that definition in the first century, when the New Testament was being written and approved doctrine had not yet been formulated.

In Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon you find the phrases, “act of taking capture,” or “storming a city,” as defining actions for the term hairesis.

As a noun it includes the concept of “a sect,” yet, the connotation is one of adversarial rather than unapproved.

Teaching an unapproved doctrine could be adversarial, but I suspect that was not the meaning of the New Testament usage.

We need to consider the earlier meaning of the word, which was more of a battle term.

When a troupe of fighters came to conquer a city, they were a “sect” of warriors who acted in an aggressive manner.

Hence, the meaning of hairesis might better be understood as being aggressive.

The biblical usage seems to indicate that heresy is forcing one’s belief on another by using techniques of manipulation, coercion or external pressure and requiring them to conform to your understanding.

This could also be translated as sect, but is a sect with an agenda.

Force is not limited to people who pervert the truth.

A person can be a heretic if he aggressively teaches truth and forces it on his audience. Spiritual insights do not have to be taught in an aggressive manner.

We can disagree on particulars but still agree on a common goal and not be adversarial. Requiring others to develop their reasoning exactly as we do is adversarial.

We have become weary of people who do not believe exactly as we do, when we should have become weary of people who demand strict agreement before any cooperation on common goals.

Herein lies the basis to gridlock.   

We can go to our places of employment and be amiable to those who disagree with us on many topics including religion.

We can come together for a common purpose and goal as defined by our employer.

But when we seek a religious goal, we cannot work with other people from diverse religious views for a common good.

This is a mistaken interpretation of biblical example.

It appears as pride and arrogance to those who don’t share our view of God.

When God’s people can set the example by working across denominational and maybe even religious barriers to accomplish a common good, maybe our nation can figure out how to act in like manner.

I know a great number of wonderful people who are not being heard because of their inability to work with those most like themselves.

I think it is a trap of the destroyer, who has found a way to forestall the Christian message.

Let us break the gridlock by loving people, even those who claim Christ, but use a different label from our own.

Frank Houtz is a leader of the congregation at Beit Minorah in Winchester. He can be reached at afhoutz@gmail.com.