Misfit Disciples in an Orthodox World

Misfit Disciples in an Orthodox World
"You had better be a round peg in a square hole than a round peg in a round hole. The latter is in for life, while the first is only an indeterminate sentence." – Elbert Hubbard

If Steve Jobs Read My Last Post, What Would He Say?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Death: is very likely the single best invention of life, says Steve Jobs in his 2005 address to the graduation class of Stanford University. 

I could not, in a million years, write a more appropriate follow up to my last post than what Steve Jobs did in this commencement address. This was a man who had obviously been greatly impacted by his own mortality. I guess this has resurfaced in light of his deteriorating health and his recent resignation as the CEO of Apple. I wish I would have heard this 12 years ago; the tools that he gives these graduates are pages pulled right from the note book of his own life. While not inherently religious, it is a speech that functions religiously, at least it has for me. Hopefully, it will for you as well! We only lose when we quit trying. I have today and hope for tomorrow, that I can make a difference in my life and the lives of others!

I will try and come back and add (below) some of the comments that spoke to my heart the most.


Crosses Hurt! Ask Me How I know...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Okay, a good Facebook friend of mine recently wrote a very difficult post and in it, he included the following quote by Fulton Ousler

Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future.

I have to admit that I know absolutely nothing about Fulton Ousler. After googling the guy, I am rather ashamed that I don't. The link above will take you to the unadulterated infallible cloud inspired almighty Wikipedia, and it will give a glimpse into this man's life and the huge corpus of material he left behind. Since I've never read any of it, the only thing I can comment on is the quote above, left so graciously by my good friend, Chad Holtz. The statement really got into my soul! I mean, I read it weeks ago in the middle of a post where my friend was sharing his heart over something that was intensely personal, and I am sure, somewhat embarrassing for him as well. My heart was moved by his situation and I cried and prayed for him. And, I continue to do so today. But in the background, that quote kept ringing in my ears like church bells reverberating in a bell tower. And while I heard Oursler's words, I also heard my own voice screaming back at me in response, "that is you!!!" 

For 15+ years, I have suffered the regret of past failures. I was a young preacher who was in the right place but at the wrong time and for all the wrong reasons. I've lived with a sense of call from the age of 11. It was real, still is. But, it got messed up because of allot of family and self esteem issues. So, when I finally got to where I thought I was supposed to be, I screwed it all up. I was in a bad marriage with three children, I was barely 21 years of age with no real education or training behind me, and it was a recipe for disaster. It took over six years, but my utter defeat happened, and I have held my head in shame ever since. 

I have facebook friends who were colleagues of mine back in those days. Most of them avoid me like the plague. I think they befriended me out of some morbid curiosity. In all honestly, I despise them. They sat back and watched me burn. When it was all said and done, they no longer knew who I was; they had suddenly forgotten my phone number. Not a single one of them, from my best friend to my worst enemy, ever tried to help me. I was left out in the cold, alone, and hurting. So, yeah, I know a little bit about being crucified on the cross of regret. 

Fear of the future is another cross I am very familiar with. The only two things I've ever known how to do, is be a plumber and a preacher. When I got divorced and lost my church (not in that order), I just naturally went back to what I knew to do. I guess it was a bit like Peter going back to fishing after Jesus was buried. The best thing in town was gone and all he knew how to do was fish. I lost my access to do what I was called to do (mainly because I was in a very strict Pentecostal/Fundamentalist denomination where the stain of divorce ran red as crimson), so I grabbed my wrenches and I went back to working with pipe. 

But, I got hurt; fell down a flight of stairs, and to make a long story short, I still suffer extreme pain, have rod and screws in my spine, and I've lost the only other thing I ever knew to do, besides preach. That was 12 years ago; 12 LONG years! Since, I've dabbled with education, taken 75-80 credits of liberal arts classes, sort of aimlessly, and I've pondered the prospect of returning to the ministry in a mainline church where the idea of being divorced doesn't make me a huge liability. But, in the end, I've never really recovered. I have just hung on those two crosses and I know what it feels like when Psalmist cries:

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. [Psalms 22:14-15, ESV]

It is a horrible place to be! But, through all of this, I keep coming back to Jacob (I know, I'm all over the place with this. It gets worse!), that Old Testament patriarch. He always gets a bad rap because of his name and some bad choices, but he was a honorable man who worked hard for his family and his possessions. He's fleeing again, this time not really due to anything that he's done wrong per se. It is the Eve before he will lay eyes upon a brother that he screwed decades earlier. The failures of yesterday, and the fear of tomorrow is starring him directly in the face! You can read all about it in Genesis 31-33. It's an epic story, indeed. 

Jacob crosses the river for solitude and to no doubt, ponder the past as well as the future as it is set before him. This may well be his last night on earth. Esau could kill tomorrow. He probably should have. After all, Jacob had stolen from Esau his very birthright and taken from him the blessing of his beloved father. But in the midst of all this mental anguish, an Angel appears and they wrestle all night. I don't know, maybe the point of the whole thing was to simply get Jacob's mind off of all the "what if's" that were swirling around in his head. Regardless, in the end, Jacob prevails (which is quite impressive if you really think of it!), his name is changed from that of "heel grabber" to that of a victor. He's no longer a victim! He has striven with both God and man and prevailed! It cost him though. He was crippled from that day on, for the rest of his life. But, something tells me that Jacob hardly ever noticed. 

Those two crosses cast huge shadows in my life; I will not deny that. But, like Jacob, I am eying that stream. I am headed to the other side and if I have to wrestle God, then I will damn well fight, because I am so tired of the nails, the sweat and agony of defeat, my tongue stuck to the very roof of my mouth, taking away my voice. Jesus only had to hang there for six hours, give or take. I feel like I've been here my entire life. But, enough is enough, and the first step to recovery is to simply admit that you need help. And, Ousler has given voice to what I need to cry out like the blind beggar, sitting by the road to Jericho, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" (Luke 18:38) Get me off this cross!

Transparency in the Church: How Real Can You Be?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Our subject is something that I first pondered twenty  years ago, while serving as the pastor of a small church in eastern NC. The parsonage was right next to the church, so close that I could reach out one of the side windows and actually touch the church. It was a very awkward experience, to say the least. We were young and very green in terms of pastoral ministry and I had no clue how intrusive some people could be. There really was no presumption of privacy there. People would come and go from the parsonage as if they had been doing it their entire lives. It didn't take us very long to realize that over half the congregation had their own key (the former pastor did not live there and the congregation had used it as a makeshift fellowship hall for several years)!

Looking back, it was hard to even have a good argument in that house. I suppose it was good for our marriage at the time. Being young with three small children, an occasion to argue arose frequently, for sure. But, we were always a bit reluctant to raise our voices (who can imagine a good argument without getting a little loud?), never really knowing who was listening. All of this made me begin to ponder the expectation of church people upon their clergy and the nature of my responsibility to live up to those expectations. I mean, every family in my church struggled with arguments and such; who doesn't? Yet, I didn't feel comfortable letting my family conflicts become common knowledge. 

After some time in prayer and contemplation, I found Isaiah 39; a very short chapter, but an extremely important one. Hezekiah has received Babylonian envoys and in his hospitality (I am sure there was a bragging component here as well), the King shows these Babylonians all the treasures of the kingdom of Judah. When they leave, Isaiah sends word to the King, asking about what the envoys saw in the Hezekiah's house. The King replies, ‘[t]hey have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.’ The prophet essentially tells the King that what he's done was a bad thing and that because of it, one day, these Babylonians will return to Jerusalem and take everything for themselves (obviously, the reasons for Judah's inevitable judgment were more complex than this one event); a prophecy that would come true just 120 years later.

I remember reading this and feeling the Lord speak to me, saying that I, myself, did not need to show everyone everything that was in my house. And this is what I would like to address briefly in this post. How transparent can we be, or, should we be, in the church? I know that we sometimes have this egalitarian ideal, where everyone is on equal footing and no one has the right to expect more from one than from any one else. Unfortunately, while all that sounds good (may even have a strong biblical basis) and looks good on paper, it doesn't connect with reality in most cases. And especially, not in areas of professional leadership. It may not be right, but there is definitely a prevailing thought that says that I might have my problems and not want you to judge me, but if you are being paid to be my pastor, and if you are being paid to represent my church in the community, I don't want your dirty laundry aired out in the society column of the local newspaper!

Many times over the years, I have heard a pastor declare from the pulpit, "my wife and I had an argument on the way to church this morning." Every time, my heart leaps, and I say, 
"YES! Finally, something I can relate too!" Yet, there has also been a part of me that becomes troubled, thinking, if he or she can't get it right, what hope is there for me? I know that is a simple example, and we certainly can not expect our clergy to be perfect, not experiencing some of the same problems we all go through. But, how honest is too honest in these areas? How do we straddle the divide between honesty and open dialog and at the same, not discourage people or give those who have less than honest intentions fuel to fight and destroy us with? 

Fact is, as ministers and leaders in the church, one of our greatest assets is our credibility. Once we've lost that, it doesn't matter how real we are or how honest we might be, nothing we do or say from that moment on will matter. And, there's often a very fine line, one that's not clearly marked, between being real with others and being too real: losing credibility. I'm not addressing how things should be. We all know that things should be different. But, I am speaking to how things really are for many of us in places of leadership and ministry.

I know this isn't a comfortable subject for many of us. But, the question persist: how do we become more transparent, yet at the same time refuse to give our enemy place to ridicule or destroy us? No one wants to be a hypocrite, but I don't think everyone wants to know about everything that I struggle with every day. I'm not sure that I would want my pastor to confide in me about his short comings or failures. How do we navigate this mine field?

Peter and Essential Truths

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Text: 2 Peter 1:12-21

Wrapping up our discussion of the Apostle Peter, I want to take a look at the last known words recorded by the Apostle. Although the entire document of 2 Peter bears his name, there's good internal evidence to suggest that the document is a composite, compiled after Peter's life, of things that the Apostle was believed to have said, or recorded by others. But, there is believed to be an original Petrine fragment found in the 1st chapter of 2 Peter, verses 12-21. Here, Peter is nearing the end of his life and is reflecting upon some things that he believes to be very important for the followers of Christ to remember.

Luke 9: 28-34
Among many Christian traditions, this text is read on Transfiguration Sunday. The transfiguration is one of those thin places in the life of Christ where we're afforded a glimpse of who he really is. His humanity takes a secondary role and the disciples witness, with greater clarity, the reality of Christ's divinity. In each of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke), this Transfiguration experience takes place right after Peter's famous confession about who Jesus is. When reading these stories, you get the impression that God is trying to deepen their conviction, not so much for the present moment (because it is clear that they do not fully comprehend all that is going on prior to the the crucifixion/resurrection), but for the years to come when they would reflect upon this event and use it as tool for expanding the Kingdom, as Peter is doing here at the end of his life.

So, after sharing with his readers the fact that he's aware that his life is coming to a close (and I think one's last words are always important), there are two things that this great Apostle wants to remind them of. Two things that he wants to ensure that they never forget. And while they are profound in scope, they are basic and foundational to the faith of these believers as well as to all those who would follow them. Essential truths that remain important, even today, in the 21st century.

The first truth is found in verses 16-18. Peter ensures them that the faith that they are following is based upon concrete, real, authentic reality. I was going to use the word truth, but that is often an ambiguous word. He contrast their faith with the fables and myths that were common within the religious traditions of the Greco/Roman world around them. What he wants them to understand is that his faith was based upon a real experience with God in the person of Jesus, and that he, as a faithful steward, has passed this down to them. What they are staking their lives (especially in light of the persecutory nature of time) upon is very real and genuine.

Obviously, there is a practical tone to what Peter is saying. He's one of the last living eye witnesses to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Some have speculated that this is the last authentic written expression from such an eye witness in New Testament. Those who had walked with Jesus, those who had handled and been involved in the life and ministry of Jesus were quickly passing from the scene. And, Peter wants to ensure that his message does not pass away with him. 

He wants them know and recognize that the expression of God through the person of Jesus is authentic. Sure, their understanding of Jesus was an ongoing experience. The post Easter understanding of Jesus, and all that implied, was being constructed, and I would argue, is continuing to be constructed, even today. But, Peter is wanting them to know that all that has developed within the Apostolic tradition, and all that would develop, both doctrinally and otherwise, flows from a reliable source. That the traditions they had received and were participating in were collectively drawn from an established, authentic fountain. The transfiguration of Jesus became the fountainhead of all they would come to know and understand about Jesus. It all began there, and continues, even today. Furthermore, Peter wants them to know that, for their particular expression of faith, Jesus is at the center and focus of all that God is doing in the world. Incidentally, this does not preclude other divine expressions in the world; but, it does, however, put Jesus at the center and forefront of the Christian expression of God in the world.

The last thing that Peter wants them to be aware of, is the primacy of Christian scriptures within their faith. In verse 19, he says “...we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts....” (NRSV) Following Peter's lead here, we need to be reminded that there is something unique and special about our sacred literature. Now, I don't want to propagate an idolatrous biblicism, where the bible erroneously takes the place of God. This is exactly what many forms of fundamentalism and biblical literalism is all about. God is reduced to the mere text on a page and our particular interpretation of what that text means becomes the end all of divine revelation. God is held hostage to the written word and our interpretations of it. This is not what Peter has in mind. 

Peter, here, is indicating the cooperation between the experience of Christ and the written words of our sacred text. This gives us a deeper understanding and greater confidence in what we've believed. That is, our sacred literature is an echo of what we experience in the present tense. God has spoken, is speaking, and will continue to speak through the medium of our sacred literature. This is an invaluable asset in the confirmation of our religious experiences. Being able to draw a direct parallel between the existential quality of our faith, a faith that is living and abides in the present, with the disclosure of God found in the written expressions of our faith, is a tremendous tool. Peter says that the cohesion between the words he heard on the mountain, “this is my beloved Son” and the prophetic utterances found in holy writ, gives them an assurance and confidence that is unmatched.

So, in essence, Peter identifies two things that are irreducible to the community of faith. First, there's an unshakable conviction that God has done something unique through the person Jesus Christ. We resound that conviction in the world today. While God never intended us to draw lines of segregation between ourselves and those of different faiths, we should never be ashamed of or draw away from declaring who Jesus is and what he means to our faith. For us, he is the way, truth, and life! And, we should never forget the importance of our sacred literature. Through it, God has spoken, is speaking, and will continue to speak to us and to our world.

Peter and Inclusion: 1st Century Debate with 21st Century Implications

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Following up on our conversation on Peter, I was reading the story in Act 10 where Peter sees the vision of the blanket descending out of heaven, filled with animals that were unclean and offensive to him. We hear the voice of God telling Peter to rise, kill, and eat! This happens three times and each time, Peter vehemently declines, stating that no unclean food has ever touched his lips. One might applaud Peter's conviction, or draw a direct parallel to what we talked about yesterday: Peter's three time denial of Christ.

As a Western reader, I think it's extremely difficult for us to relate to this passage and understand just how offensive this directive really was to Peter. A casual Jew, not even an especially devout one, would have found this vision to be problematic. For the Jews, their dietary restrictions were a fundamental part of their national and religious identity. It helped to define who they were as a people. Simply put, they were different, special, right down to the type of food they put into their mouths! God was so involved with who they were as a nation that he was interested in everything about them, even about what they chose to eat. And, this was very important to them, to say the least.

So, you can imagine the internal struggle that must have been going on inside of Peter when all of a sudden, God changes his mind about something that was settled a long time ago. Remember, many of these dietary injunctions were given to them by God himself (via Moses), and were a part of their oral and writen tradition. These laws were written down for all Jews to read and observe. Obviously, and as Peter would soon find out, there was allot more at stake here than just food or dietary restrictions. God was about to embrace the other: an entire segment of the world's population who had hitherto been rejected, were now being chosen and declared acceptable by God. And, he was going to do it without their consent or opinion!

One of the things that strikes me the most about this story is that God changes his mind. While this not a new concept by any means (there are numerous places in the biblical record where God repents or changes direction, etc), it is one that we often pass over quickly and fail to recognize. I mean, to be honest, I can't say that it's something that makes me feel very comfortable. It kind of rubs me wrong and offends my God sensibilities. Changing one's mind seems like such a human thing to do. Surely, God can see things from all angles and therefore, should make the right decision the first time around. Right? But, regardless of how we interpret it, God changing his mind is one of his sovereign prerogatives. This was a HUGE change in policy! And, for all us non-Jews reading this today, let's be thankful for it!

If you continue reading this into the 11th chapter, you'll find that Peter is confronted with his (supposed) violation of Kosher laws, visiting and fraternizing with Gentiles, even baptizing them into the faith. In his defense, Peter recounts the vision that he had to his fellow Jewish believers, recounting how these Gentiles had received the same Spirit as the Jewish believers had on the Day of Pentecost, and then makes the same observation that he made when commanding Cornelius and his entire household to be baptized. That is, if God has embraced these Gentiles, with their non-Jewish diets and the such like, then how can we deny them their rightful place alongside us in the faith?

The crux here is what God said to Peter in the vision: do not call profane what I've called (have made) clean (Acts 10:15). You don't have to understand, agree, or even like it, but you do have to acknowledge it. God has a right to do things that we don't like. He has a right to change his mind. And, this is something that I think is very important for us to understand.

I'm a part of an UCC congregation and the denomination's motto is one that I have always loved: “God is still Speaking.” Meaning, the final word hasn't been spoken. I know this will rub many of my fundamentalist friends the wrong way, and those with a very high view of scripture will vehemently object. But, I think that our story is still under construction. I think God still has something in store for us that will surprise us, no matter how biblically versed we are or think that we've got it all figured out.

On a practical side, this speaks definitively to the LGBT issues of our day. Peter was willing to go against millenniums of oral tradition, as well as an entire segment of written law, based entirely upon a vision and what he deemed to be acceptable fruit.1 He saw with his own eyes that God had accepted the Gentiles. His relationship with these people and his proximity to what God was doing in the present, convinced him that God had indeed changed the course of human history and had made these Gentiles fellow participants in the work and ministry of Christ. 

It is very easy to pontificate about a segment of people (abstractly) and deny them access to God and the church. It is another matter, indeed, to know them, build relationships with them, and then pronounce such upon them. It's different when it's your brother or father, than when it's some abstract “someone” out there who is different. But, I think that regardless of how we interpret scripture, we can use the same litmus test that Peter used.

LGBT persons have tremendous talents to offer the church. Many of them have received the same callings, gifts, and talents that their heterosexual counterparts have received. They recount the same conversion experiences, exhibit the same attributes, have a relationship with the same God. They're fighting and working in the same trenches for justice and peace. They are in love with the same Jesus. And quite frankly, who are we to continue to designate them as unclean when God has clearly embraced them and called them to be a part of the same body of Christ? 

1.When God Breaks the Rules
   A sermon on Acts 11: 1-18 & John 13:31-35 by Nathan Nettleton, 9 May 2004

Just Like Peter...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Jacob Wrestling God 1
Peter is a fascinating biblical character. He's definitely one that I can identify with, for various reasons. Without Peter, I might well think that there's no hope for me. But, looking at Peter's life and failures has breathed new life into my own hope that one day God will be able to use me again, in spite of my past and less than shinning moments.

I heard an old preacher, some years ago, preach a sermon on the O.T. patriarch, Jacob. He was talking about leadership and referred to Jacob's wrestling with the Angel of Lord along the banks of the river Jabbok. If you remember the story, you will recall that Jacob won the fight and to get away, the Angel dislocated Jacob's hip, causing Jacob to walk with a limp for the rest of his life (Ge 32:25,32). This was a life altering event, and one that had great significance for the children of Israel. The old preacher's conclusion: never trust a leader who doesn't have a limp!

Peter has no problems in this department; he has a very visible limp. One moment, Peter is declaring the Lord's messiah-ship, claiming Christ to be the son of God. The next moment, Peter is sticking his foot in his mouth and being rebuked by Jesus, in very harsh terms. One moment he's fighting for Christ in the garden, willing to lead an assault to keep Christ from being taken prisoner, the next he's cursing and decrying Christ, stating that he never knew him. These are the type of failures that follow you your entire life. The kind of failures that others never let you forget.

Yet, God chose Peter to lead this fledgling church that Jesus was leaving behind. He chose Peter to be a representative, a Kingdom Ambassador, commissioned to take the message of Jesus to the world. To show the world what Jesus is all about. This man, with a very lack luster resume, was the very man upon whom Jesus bestowed the keys of the kingdom, the power of binding and loosing; the man upon whom the church would be built. Obviously, there are allot of different interpretations about what all these things mean, but no one can deny that Peter played a very significant role in the early establishment of the church. And, this involvement was by design. Jesus chose him, and in spite of Peter's best efforts to ruin himself, Jesus was deliberate about Peter's call and the part he would play in the church.

All this gives me hope. I'm a screw up, just Peter. Just like Peter, I've walked away feeling like all was lost, going back to who I was, doing what I've always done. Just like Peter, Jesus has come back to very same place, finding me in the very same boat I was in when he found me. He finds me weary, having fished all night for nothing; just spinning my wheels, over and over again. Just like Peter, I've heard Jesus tell me to do it all over again, throw that net into the water one more time. (Jn 21:1-19)

I've heard Jesus say to me many times, “do you love me more than...?” You fill in the blanks. Jesus looks past what everyone else sees. There's a value in us that is not always visible to others. But Christ is committed to making us what he wants us to be. And while he was the stone that the builder's rejected, Peter became the least likely pillar of the church as well. Yet his influence and the mythology of his life and ministry still impacts the world today.

This encourages me. Some may reject me, but Jesus has embraced me. Even when he knew I'd screw it up, deny him, and run as fast and as hard as I could from his cross. Yet, Jesus can see in me what you can't, knows my tomorrow in ways that no one but him can, and somehow, he's deemed me, and you... a good investment.

Keep your head up today!

Learning to Love

Monday, August 1, 2011

One of the most valuable assets that a Christian can posses is the ability to resolve conflicts. Evidence for this can be found in just a cursory reading of the New Testament. The teachings of Christ on loving one's neighbor; the Apostle Paul's admonitions toward unity within the churches he established, all show a consistent preoccupation with the subjects of love and unity within the New Testament. Jesus prayed that we would all be one (John 17:11-13); Paul told the Philippians to have the same mind as Christ who gave up his life for the good of others (Phil 2:1-8) To exist together in love and unity, giving of ourselves for the benefit of others, is a clear, consistent, and resounding biblical priority.

The problem lies in the practical aspects of this: the divide between what we know is right and how we choose to behave. I mean, none of us would argue against the ideal. Surely, most of us can see the beauty and value in this way of life and would hardly argue against. However, it is something that is not natural for most of us. And, outside of the church and the Kingdom of God, in the real dog eat dog world where we spend allot our time, it's just not something we witness or experience on a consistent basis. The world simply walks to the beat of a different drum.

The ethos of Kingdom of God, however, is to embody and possess (to slightly modify and borrow a phrase from liberation theology) a preferential option for others. But, even in the church, and in our intimate relationships with friends and family, we tend to fall short of this ideal because it's not natural for us. Most of us operate with an innate fight or flight response; we have a built in mechanism that causes us to fight to protect ourselves. And, it's not always a given that in any particular situation we'll just automatically prefer others above ourselves, sacrifice our desires, dreams, and aspirations, for the good of someone else. Especially when we feel justified in not doing so.

With this said, for the Kingdom within to be what it's supposed to be, for us to emulate Christ in his lifestyle of sacrifice and concern for others, we have to be transformed. I think this is what Paul was saying when he admonished us to put on Christ (Ro 13:14), not being conformed to the world and its standards, but to be transformed by the regenerating of our minds through the power of the Holy Spirit (Ro 12:1-2). It's hardwired into our DNA to protect our own self-interest. But, the Spirit of Christ can re-write this code, reprogram our natural propensity toward self-preservation. This will allow us to truly love our brother as ourselves, emulating Christ who laid down his very life for his friends (John 15:13). 

Recent events in my life have reminded me of these truths and how important it is to live with other's in mind. It is so easy to forget these things and live our lives with little to no perception of what our actions and words are doing to others. And, I tend to appraise people's perception of me based solely upon how I feel about it. I mean, if my wife has a problem with something I'm doing but I don't see the harm in it, I am more likely than not, going to continue the behavior. But, that's not really how Christ would lead me to behave, is it?

It should be enough that our actions hurt someone else, without having to make them defend their position and argue it in such a way that convinces us that we should change. Obviously, this can be taken to an extreme, and we should all live reasonably. But, Paul was essentially talking about the same thing in Ro. 14 when he was addressing the idea of eating meat sacrificed to idols. I may be able to pull up to the table and enjoy that piece of perfectly cooked Prime Rib, and there may not be a single thing inherently wrong with doing so. But if my brother is offended...

This is the heart of the gospel. Everything Jesus did, he did for others. He was led to the cross, not because of his own offenses, but for ours. He stepped into our domain, clothed himself with the frailty of our human flesh, suffered the full range of human emotion and indignity, and he did it all for us. He did it to show us how were are live; how we are live our lives in love and sacrifice, esteeming the needs of others above our own. 
The Sacred Heart of Jesus*

By this will all men know that you are my disciples, because of your love one for another (Jn 13:35). That's so much more than just saying, “I love you.” It's the giving of ourselves, wholly and completely, for the good and benefit of others. Such love is visible to those outside our communities of faith. It's a tangible and concrete expression of love. It's love that compels others to desire to partake of what we've got. It's this kind of love and sacrifice that is the very heartbeat of Christian community!

It is this kind of love that behooves us to resolve conflict, to lay aside division and embrace one another, even when we disagree and have valid reasons to dislike one another. This love enables us to bury the hatchet, lay aside our entitlements, and fully clothe ourselves with the disposition of Christ.

May God helps us to this end! 

*The Sacred heart of Jesus represents the unmitigated love, compassion, and long-suffering of the heart of Christ towards humanity.