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As a little girl, when my brother and I would find ourselves in a heated argument, my mom would send us to the front porch. “Work it out and when you’re ready to get along, you can come back inside.”

If you’re looking for a parenting tip, I wouldn’t write this down quite yet. It didn’t always work right away. I remember several times, she would check on us fifteen or twenty minutes later, and we’d still be at it. But eventually, after all the hard words and the right amount of time, we would come back together and be siblings again.

Christian family, sometimes I think we should be sent out to the front porch until we work it out. We shy away from hard conversations. We get scared to death when we disagree. But I’m convinced; talking about the hard stuff, agreeing to disagree, would make us a healthier group of believers and greatly improve our witness. Our faith must be strong enough to do this.

Often, it seems if we disagree on even one point, this verse gets launched like a wrecking ball into the spiritual battlefield.

            Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. Matthew 7:15

It seems an awful lot like looking at sawdust in another’s eye, while paying no attention to the plank in your own. Most recently, Jen Hatmaker came out of the closet-so to speak-saying she’s changed her opinion on gay marriage. Almost immediately, she was labeled a heathen. If we would move this conversation to the front porch and stay there until we worked it out, I think we’d emerge siblings again.

Whether I agree or disagree with Jen, she’s still my sister in Christ. She is. Her husband, Brandon, posted a thoughtful, godly response to the after-math of their decision on his Facebook page. He explained their joint study of Scripture and of books written by Christians on the topic. His post showed a deep desire to decipher how Jesus would want them to respond. It might not be how you would respond and it might not line up with your beliefs. It does not mean they are doing Satan’s work. It does not make them any less our Christian brothers and sisters.

Two things amaze me the most. First, our lightning quick judgment. I scrolled through my Facebook feed and was in awe of the terrible, judgmental things I read about Jen. Based on one interview, people became convinced she was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. That is an extremely strong accusation. One we should take very seriously.

The Hatmakers are certainly not the first people we’ve thrown under the bus. I’ve led our women’s Bible study groups at church for eight years now. We’ve done several studies by popular teachers, Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer.

In the last year or so, a few Bible study attendees have forwarded our local teachers articles on how these women are heretics. A few of our local ladies are not involved in our Bible study groups anymore because they believe the articles. Yet, these articles take the words women like Beth and Priscilla have spoken completely out of context and set them up to be false teachers.

We hear the phrase again, “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

Yesterday, The Washington Post ran an op-ed article written by Jennifer Cooke, Amy Grant’s manger, reporting that Lifeway Stores had decided to not carry Grant’s new Christmas CD. According to Cooke, they determined the song selections are not Christian enough for Christian retail.

It seems if a person is looking for ammunition, her or she will find it.

I don’t agree with everything these ladies believe. They’re still my sisters. They are. These ladies have taught me more about the Bible and the study of Scripture than perhaps anyone else in my spiritual walk.

They are serious students of Scripture. They realize as teachers/leaders, they’re held to a higher standard. James told them so thousands of years ago.

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. James 3:1

Don’t read more into my words than what I’m saying. There are times when our leaders fall and they should not lead us anymore. They too need our forgiveness but we must be wise enough to recognize false teaching and not follow blindly. That’s on us. Always be on the lookout for false teachers and prophets, but don’t be so quick to judge. Pray over it. Do your own research, away from social media.

As for these women, these precious women of God who have partnered with the Spirit to produce so much fruit in our lives, they deserve better. If they were sitting beside us (on say, the front porch) or if they attended our local churches, I hope we’d treat them with more respect. I want to believe we’d take time to hear their side. We have to find room to disagree on some points of our faith, while clinging to the key points. People who need Jesus are watching. May they know we are Christians by our love.

You may also like:  For The Love:  Why I Support Jen Hatmaker and Here’s Why I Don’t Agree With Jen Hatmaker

Traci Rhoades

Traci Rhoades is a writer and Bible teacher. She lives in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area with her family and an ever-changing number of pets. Connect with her online at tracesoffaith.com or @tracesoffaith on twitter. She is the author of "Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost."

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