The journey of a nerd who loves the Lord

Persecution from Within

darkheartThrough the centuries, Christians have experienced persecution.  Even today, in countries such as North Korea, Christians face serious threats for their faith, often leading to the ultimate sacrifice.  Unfortunately, this pressure has not only come from evil forces outside the faith, but from within, as well.  The Catholic church killed countless Protestants through the Dark Ages (And vice versa), usually for differences of dogma.   Many would question whether those involved were truly Christian, however, they represented what was known as the Christian church at the time.

While we rarely have that particular issue in the United States, the spirit that lead to such brutality still thrives today.  Disguised as denominationalism, brothers separate over doctrines and dogmas.  More concerning, some even draw hard lines of division or ostracize other brothers over such theologies.  I shared one such experience not long ago, and I am hardly alone.

BibleThe following verses warn us against such division.

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 1 Cor 1.10

What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 1 Cor 1.12-13

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 1 Eph 4.4-5

Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind – 1 Rom 14.1-5

The quote from Romans convicts my heart.  We should not judge the servants of God, yet we do so all of the time.  Because so many falsely claim to follow Christ, or claim ‘to be saved’, we rightly ask questions to find out the basis of their confession.  But when we dig deeper than that… and judge our brother on his understanding of things like the trinity, baptism, etc., we run risk of violating the above verses.

And when we create divisions, or kick a brother out over such things, we do not demonstrate the spirit of love that Christ asks of us.  Instead, we show that we have not progressed much further than those who used to kill over such matters.

hugAs I blogged earlier, Christianity is largely a subjective experience.  We each have to work out our relationship with God, and our understanding of various theologies, on our own.  We cannot force others to get on the exact page with our imperfect faith, nor should we try.  God could, of course, but in His infinite wisdom, He gives us the liberty to work out our faith with Him, rather than force these matters.

I do not suggest we throw out all theology, and refrain from attempting to teach and convince others.  I would demonstrate the height of hypocrisy in doing so with this very blog entry!  However, it is one thing to lovingly share a theology with a brother in an effort to convince him of a truth, and quite another to use divisions and ostracization as tools to enforce conformity among a group.  The last time I checked, Jesus instructed us to love one another.  In fact, He said that by love, and not exactly correct theology, will others know we are His disciples.  I’m glad, because last time I checked, no one can truly claim to completely understand the ways of God.

The following video by Shawn McCraney inspired this blog entry today.  I encourage you to watch or listen to it.

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Comments on: "Persecution from Within" (2)

  1. Hi J,

    It’s been a while. While I agree that we absolutely should not suppress our fellow-Christians, and we should seek unity with them as a very high and pressing goal, I wonder if your tolerance goes too far. You say that we shouldn’t poke into whether our brothers believe in the Trinity, or into their beliefs about Baptism. While there’s certainly an element of tact present (we have to judge whether or not bringing up a particular point is likely to have any effect, and some people simply aren’t ready for debate on certain issues), it seems like you’re advocating that the Trinity, Baptism, etc, aren’t really important, or at least are “negotiable” aspects of Christianity.

    Now, I know you’re not foolish enough to think that it doesn’t matter what we believe – I’m sure you would have no truck with someone who came into your assembly and claimed that he didn’t personally believe that Jesus was really the Son Of God, but merely an “adopted” human, or (more likely in this day and age) that he didn’t believe that following Jesus *really* means turning away from the many sins we find so attractive. I’m sure you believe that there’s at least *some* degree of error about God and the Gospel that is not acceptable, that prevents one from being a believer (say, the aforementioned, or the modern belief that God does not really have the right to tell us how to live our lives or how not to do so). If someone says “I believe in the One True God, and in worship I sacrifice small children on an altar”, then he is clearly not worshipping the One God. Insofar as he’s actually “worshipping” anything, he’s “worshipping” a construct of his own mind, a figment of his imagination (and doing abominable things in the process). Also obvious, however, is that God does not require everybody to pass a rigorous theology exam to be saved. So while some degree of imprecision or error in belief is permissable, clearly there’s also a point at which it stops being permissible and becomes gravely wrong, idolatry even. The problem is figuring out where that line is. That’s what (Catholics) have the Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith for.

    One last, related point, is this: of course, we should seek to avoid throwing people out of our Churches over theological differences, as much as is possible. But say someone gets an idea into his head, an idea that’s dangerous and in fact might be damning (say, the idea that there are actually two Gods, the good God of the New Testament and the evil God of the Old Testament:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catharism

    Say he gets this idea in his head, and he stubbornly refuses to listen to anyone else about his error. What are we supposed to do? We must make it clear that he’s absolutely wrong and does not have our support, because he could lead many others into damnation. Surely some kind of drastic action, a cutting-off, might be thinkable?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excommunication#Catholic_Church

    Isn’t this at least a live possibility?

    Thanks
    Eoin

    • Salutations!!

      Thanks for writing! Yes, it has been a while!!

      I never imply that what one believes lacks importance. My last paragraph addresses that concern, head on. We can lovingly discuss these concerns with each other. However, when it becomes a fulcrum to wedge division, we have to tread carefully. The Bible has plenty of warnings about that, and our 40k or so denominations sadly attest to the result of such approaches. The answer, most of the time, is to accept each other despite these variances.

      Utilizing exaggeration does not disprove the need for such of an approach. The heart of the gospel provides the foundation for our faith ( I wrote about this at http://wp.me/p21LuS-qh ). If someone claims another way to salvation, and attempts to to sway a group along those lines, without any chance for retort, then, yes, we would certainly cast them out from our midst. I believe Paul even mentions the need for this approach in dealing with others who ‘preach another gospel.’ However, the *vast* majority of persecution and separation within the Christian church find their roots in much lesser issues.

      I use the example of the doctrine of Trinity because I have seen division over that one, first hand. While many feel that particular doctrine integral to the Christian faith, I would never divide with a brother over it. If he confesses that he’s a sinner, repents, and has faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross for the salvation of His sins, then I happily welcome him. I may feel he’s wrong in that area… I may try to show him that error, in love…but I would never kick him out over that alone, or make him feel unwelcome.

      Ultimately, what matters, is the love he shows to other believers. Jesus said “This is how they will know you are my disciples, if you love one another”, not, “If they have perfect theology.” We should start there, rather than deep questions about our brother’s theology, IMHO.

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