Thems and Usses

Anger Conflict fight gloves boxing
Anger Conflict fight gloves boxing

Guest Post: Mark Kennedy, ACSI Canada

It was one of those Saturday night banquets in 1970s Christian circles. The menu featured vulcanized chicken slices from birds that might well have spent their formative days too close to the local tire factory – they were a bit chewy I mean. A minor multitude of merry wives were socializing gleefully as their husbands did their best to sit up, bare up and smile, while silently wishing they were home watching Hockey Night in Canada. As for me, at this particular event I envied my right leg. It was asleep.

On my left sat a substantial lady whom Professor Henry Higgins of My Fair Lady fame would have labeled “Wagnerian”.

Appraising a late arriving couple she leaned toward me and whispered conspiratorially, “Are they… of us?”

‘You mean are they tall people with mustaches?’ I thought but tactfully restrained myself from saying.

Apart from the impossibility of a “they” being “one”, I knew what she meant. ‘Are they part of our denominational/experiential/social/sub-cultural persuasion?’

Little did she know that, strictly speaking, I wasn’t ‘one of us’, at least not according to her criteria. I was ‘a them’.

Back in those days it was temptingly easy to divide believers into ‘thems’ and ‘usses’. The ‘thems’ were those strange folks - you know, those Baptists or Pentecostals or Brethren or Americans or Ontarians or Torontonians or whomever you choose. They were Christians who were different from us or whose behaviour embarrassed us or perhaps who simply got their theology wrong (unlike us who always got ours “right”). Maybe they were those irritatingly odd people who warned us about the fruit of our culture’s sins – the sins to which we found it easy to become accommodated. In any case they provided a welcome distraction from our own shortcomings and made us feel just a little bit ‘apart’, to use a term of pseudo non-judgementalism.

“We’re ok, but as for the rest of you, well???????”, just about summed it up. And I fell for it too. As a young aggressively progressive Christian school administrator, I knew what was wrong with everyone’s school, everyone’s but mine. In my far from humble opinion, ours was God’s special school unlike all those ordinary ones. We were the ‘us’, they were the ‘them’. It’s an embarrassing admission now. Dividing the body of Christ into thems and usses is a luxury we couldn’t afford then, can’t afford now and never will be able to afford. That’s because in the most important sense all reborn believers are “us”, even though we have different understandings on portions of scripture and even though some of us may not approve of Christian schooling.

Francis Schaeffer put it this way,

“The real chasm is not between Presbyterians and everyone else, or Lutherans and everyone else, or Anglicans and everyone else, or Baptists and everyone else. The real chasm is between those who have bowed to the living God and thus to the verbal, propositional communication of God’s inerrant Word, the Scriptures, and those who have not.” Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster

And until the Lord returns we reborn believers need to practice unity in Christ without compromising our denominational or interpretational differences.

When Paul stressed, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit within the bond of peace.”(Eph 4:3) I think he recognized at least 2 things:

  1. That the Spirit of Christ is the essential strength in Christian lives and ministries,
  2. That maintaining unity is hard but very, very important.

In Christian schooling, we’ve expended a lot of time and effort privately developing our own organizations, our own little kingdoms. Maybe we need to alter our focus a bit. On the front of the Cardus Report it says “A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats”. Could it be that we’ve been concentrated too much on lifting the ACSI boat or Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools boat or CSI boat when we should have been increasing the tidal flow of support for Christian schooling in general?

That ‘increasing the tidal flow’ thing is an intentional focus at our office now. It doesn’t mean we’ll be serving our member schools less effectively but we will do more to build up God’s Kingdom in Christian schooling in general. That’s why we’ve opened the ACSI/Advisors With Purpose partnership to non ACSI members and why we’ve been supporting and promoting and the Nimbus initiative.

And the Lord seems to be impressing this same new focus on other Christian school related groups too. I’ve recently heard from two Canadian charitable foundations that used to limited their financial support to one or two distinct Christian school communities while excluding everyone. But now they’re expanding their annual donations to bless a broader range of Christian schools, including our ACSI member. I’ll be sending you more information about that in the next few months.

None of this is based upon any sort of new concept. It’s just an encouraging new application of an old biblical mandate. Let’s be praying that all Canadian Christian schools will be its beneficiaries, now and into the future.