1. Human depravity is real and deep.
Sin has affected everything about everyone including our relationships. Our discussions must be marked by humble and gracious truth-telling, not self-righteousness and sinful anger. Sin starts in the human heart and has an impact on society at every level. We should not be shocked by the sinfulness of sin but should also hate it and go to war with it in our own hearts, the church, and society.
2. Jesus is the only answer to our depravity.
Jesus and his glorious gospel are the only ultimate solutions to how messed-up we are. Christ’s saving work is our only hope for salvation. His church will one day be perfectly unified and reflect who we are. But the gospel must be worked out in every area of our lives in practical ways so that we are salt and light to a needy and dark world.
3. The past is important.
Understanding and appreciating our past (individually and collectively) is important for understanding how we need to redemptively move ahead. But we are never stuck in our past. We want people to help each other know and grow in Jesus.
4. God’s word is important.
Scripture is our divine, ultimate, sufficient, authoritative, clear, inerrant guide in all areas of life.
5. God’s word interprets our experience.
Scripture cannot be interpreted according to our experience. Our relationships must be viewed through the lens of God’s design and purpose for our lives. We need to appreciate and sympathize the experiences of others, but not see those experiences as necessarily determinative of what is real and true. We cannot fall into the common contemporary instinct to hyper-affirmation of personal, subjective experience as what determines and even creates reality.
6. Lament don’t whine.
Christians need to be good at grieving and lamenting over our own suffering, as well as that of others. But we can’t be whiners since we are people of hope, joy, and gratitude in the midst of the groaning. We need to get beyond that. Grieving immorality, especially in the church, is good and right. But God is always working for his glory and our good – and there’s plenty of both.
“In terms of positive action, lamentation offers little and delivers less. As for the notion of some lost golden age, it is truly very hard for any competent historian to be nostalgic. . .. Every age has its darkness and its dangers. The task of the Christian is not to whine about the moment in which he or she lives but to understand its problems and respond appropriately to them.” (Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self)
7. Be thoughtful and gracious.
We need to think critically and evaluate ideas and cultural movements from a biblical perspective, but be gracious and sympathetic with individuals who are struggling on life’s journey. Grace means we love each other! We speak truth in love and graciously call one another to holiness.
8. Evaluate the best examples of ideas we oppose.
“Try to ‘steel man’ an opponent’s position. A steel-man argument is the opposite of a straw-man argument. When we erect a straw man, we present a weakened caricature of our opponent’s position, which makes it easier to knock down. Social media incentivizes this sort of engagement, as we aim for the ‘mic drop’ moment. It’s easy to find plenty of cheerleaders who will applaud when we demolish our opponents (or at least, the straw man that we’ve attached to their faces). In contrast, a steel-man argument seeks to represent an opponent’s position better than he did. We might supply an additional argument for his position — one that he did not advance — in order to present the strongest expression of that position. This sort of exercise is an act of love towards him, and towards those who agree with us. By strengthening views that we eventually reject, we can become aware of limitations or weaknesses in our own arguments.” (Joe Rigney)
9. Aim at truth and unity.
We seek unity grounded in truth and truth that seeks unity. We need to be discerning about what issues deserve the most conviction and commitment and which ones are more peripheral.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6)