The tension was palpable. One woman was sharing her frustration of being raised in a particular denomination while the woman across the room from her was feeling attacked for still being a part of, you guessed it, the same denomination. Their doctrinal beliefs were vastly different. Both women were emotionally invested and felt strongly about their position. Both were getting hot. And I was stuck in the middle. No matter what I said, someone was going to feel offended. We had to go back to the basics.
"Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God? Do you believe He died on the cross to save your sins? Have you asked Him to be a part of your life?"
The answer to every question was yes. It was the only ground we could agree on.
It has made me think a lot about why Christians have such a hard time living together in peace. Should denominational lines separate us so? One of my son's friends tells him we worship wrong because we "sing a bunch of pop songs in church" (his interpretation of worship choruses), yet my son tells him he doesn't know why he believes anything he believes.
Why do we feel the need to be more "right" than each other? Is anything gained by being critical?
I once had a couple of Mormons stop by the house in a snowstorm. The young men had been going door to door all morning and were absolutely freezing. One of the guy's teeth were actually chattering! Now I didn't want to talk to them about their church because I knew we would not agree, but they looked so cold! So I said, "I don't really want to talk about your beliefs. My husband is a pastor (that one always gets me off the hook quickly) and we are very secure in what we believe, but would you like to come in? Could I get you some hot chocolate?" They gladly accepted and we spent the next hour talking about where they were from, what they were doing, etc. (You've got to respect people giving up two years of their lives to witness to others whether you agree with them or not.) Then they started asking about our church and what my husband did there. Before they left, we had invited them to come to our Christmas program. It ended up being a nice time. I hope they left with the feeling that Christians are not such bad people.
Now I don't subscribe at all to Mormon tenets, but was there anything to gain by trying to prove them wrong? Isn't it better to model Christ's love ? Do we convince someone they need to examine their faith by slamming their beliefs?
We've been told in the evangelical world that we can't compromise, that if we accept others who do not adhere to our doctrine, we are condoning their behavior. Does accepting the PEOPLE who believe differently, not their way of thinking (big difference there), compromise our own faith? Did Jesus come out and prove people wrong? He was thought a little scandalous in how He accepted people, wasn't He?
I may not believe or understand the way a Lutheran or Catholic or you fill in the blank believes, but if we can agree about Jesus and the Bible, I think I need to consider them my brother or sister in Christ. And if they are my "family", we are instructed in scripture to be unified. Jesus prays for this in the garden of Gethsemene right before He is arrested and killed. It must be important!
John 17: 20-23: ". . .I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. . .I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
Did you catch that unity shows the world that Jesus is God? Only His influence in our lives could explain how we could get along so well. (That's almost a little comical to me!)
What do you think? Do you agree or are you foaming at the mouth by now? I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions. Let's talk.