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Mark Batterson: Straining Gnats and Swallowing Camels

One of my father-in-law’s unforgettable quips was this: I have one friend who’s for it, one friend who’s against it, and I’m for my friends.

I take that approach in some instances, and I’m not given to getting into the middle of crossfire, but few things bother me more than sideways energy in the kingdom of God. We end up infighting and forget who our very real enemy is. I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we stopped throwing stones at each other.  Unfortunately, we’ll keep throwing stones as long as textual critics argue about whether that story about throwing stones in John 8 belongs in the text.

If something is heretical, that’s one thing. But we quibble over far too many things. In the words of Matthew 23:24, we “strain gnats” and “swallow camels.”  I’ll keep this generic, but last week, I heard about a group of churches who won’t endorse one translation of Scripture because of gender-neutral language that in appropriate places is inclusive of the female gender.  I’m all for holding the fort of orthodoxy, but that strikes me as misidentifying the enemy.  For the record, it’s one of my favorite translations, and I’m grateful for all the scholarly research that went into producing it.

I’ve always subscribed to something Rupertus Meldenius said: “In the essentials, unity.  In the non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.”

Obviously, it’s hard to know where to draw the line between essential and non-essentials.  But let’s not major in minors. Let’s not strain gnats and swallow camels. If we converted all of our sideways energy into synergy (which is another word for unity), we’d see another Great Awakening. If we stopped fighting with each other and started fighting our true enemy, we’d see a revival that would rival history’s greatest revivals. 

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Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C., a multi-site church and a leading fellowship in the nation’s capital. Meeting in movie theaters and Metro stops throughout the D.C. area, NCC is attended by more than 70 percent single twenty-somethings. Mark’s weekly podcast is one of the fastest growing in America. His book, In A Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars peaked at #44 on Amazon.com’s best-seller list. He has just released his newest book entitled, Wild Goose Chase: Reclaiming the Adventure of Pursuing God. He and his wife Lora live on Capitol Hill. They have three children.