Through 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.
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.
As 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.