If it is true that we find ourselves in a similar place to Israel as she stood on two mountains - and I think it is - then there is something else that we need to take notice of in this narrative, and it is the response that each mountain has for the other.
When Israel split into two groups, six tribes on one mountain and six on the other, they still viewed themselves as one people of God. Though they stood in two camps, there was no real divide among them. And as the camp on the first mountain proclaimed the promises of God's blessings, those on the other mountain shouted in reply, Amen! As those on the second mountain proclaimed the promises of God's curses, those on the other mountain shouted in reply, Amen! They recognized very clearly the truth that stood on both mountains, and they affirmed one another - and God - in response.
This is so not our story.
We, too, are standing on two different mountains today. We're standing on the mountains of grace and truth, which have inappropriately been called "liberal" and "conservative" Christianities. (There's no such thing. It's terrible to politicize our faith in this way with this kind of language, and I have written about this before.) And the problem is that when we hear the other camp speaking, our response is something less than affirmative. We do not stand on our own mountain and shout, Amen!
No, we stand on our own mountain and shout, You're an idiot!
This...is a problem. Of course, when we see it written down, it seems so silly. So dumb. It's clearly a problem, and we're all tempted to say that we are not part of this problem. We're not the ones calling each other stupid, although we readily confess that we know persons who do.
But how much of your time do you spend apologizing for Christians who have it "wrong"? How much effort do you put forth into explaining to others that that's not what Jesus meant? How often do you let your frustration with the other mountain spill over into the Pharasaical prayer - Lord, thank you that I am not like them; now, set them straight!
See, not all of us are so bold as to directly engage in the theological debates, but we die on our own mountains nonetheless. We stake out our ground and spend all of our time trying to pull the culture at large over to our side, trying to get them to come to our mountain. We tell them that the other side is wrong. We make apologies for them, since they clearly won't apologize for themselves (and neither will we). We preach our sermons and cannot escape the echoes of theirs, but instead of shouting in reply, Amen!, we simply just shout louder, and the message that the world hears us shouting to one another is not an affirmation of God's incredible glory but the less-worthy chorus of, You're an idiot!
And all the while, we're missing out on what is the most important detail in all of this, and that is this: even though we stand on our mountains shouting at one another, the Lord our God is actually in neither camp. As much as we want to say that He is, that God has chosen sides, that we are the righteous among Him, He's not on our mountains - either one of them. The Lord our God is in the valley.
Israel's story shows this full well. (Stay tuned.)