We like to categorize and put labels on things. This isn’t bad, per se. Categorizing can help us make sense of things. But when we do so to dismiss or even demonize our brethren in Christ, that’s quite another thing.
Since the Reformation, we’ve had the Protestants demonizing Catholics and vice versa, Cessationist who believe that the gifts of the Spirit ceased with the apostles going polemic on the Charismatics and Pentecostals who believe they’re still relevant, knee-jerk vilification from many Charismatics and Pentecostals against the so-called “Hyper-Grace” preachers, and then some of these same grace preachers rejecting the Inclusionists, who rebut the Universalists…and on it goes.
I’m not saying that there isn’t error in some or even all of these doctrinal positions. But what if we weren’t so fragile in our confidence in who we are in Christ and actually stopped labeling our brothers and sisters in Christ?
What if all doctrinal positions had something valuable to teach us?
What if we weren’t so afraid of hearing from these people who love Jesus that we actually grew in our understanding of what an awesome God we all worship?
What if we acted like we haven’t arrived at perfect knowledge of all things and humbly received from anyone who has an honestly held Christian position?
What if this both balanced us and empowered us with passion in the love of God more than we could ever experience in our fear of being wrong?
Oswald Chambers was right. It does takes God a long time to get us to stop thinking that unless everyone sees things exactly as we do, they must be wrong.
What if we stopped nitpicking at each other with our inquisitional microscopes and actually learned to love one another, despite our differences and, instead, saw each other through the telescope of our destiny and purpose in Christ? (2 Cor.5:16-17)
Jesus said the way the world would know us by our love for one another, not by our doctrinal agreement (John 13:35; 17:23). Why, then, is love for one another so minimized?
This is not an insignificant question. For love is everything, without it we’re nothing, no matter how right we think we are (1 Cor.13:1-3).
Paul said that being divisive and arguing over who’s right and who’s wrong is acting like the world, not like Christ. It actually shows that we’re not spiritual at all (1 Cor.3:3).
I think it’s pretty clear what we should be focusing on, don’t you?
Because while we’re busy tearing at each other over non-central doctrines, the world God so loved continues to view the church with astonishment and derision. And rightfully so.
This is not the gospel’s fault; it’s our fault.
We’re not following Jesus’ commandment to love one another as He loves us, we’re following our own doctrinal gods in the name of defending truth (which means, our interpretation of the truth).
I get mostly positive responses from my readers when I bring this up, but a few get a little testy, like when I brought up Pope Francis and talked about the unity of the faith. This unity, by the way, is the ultimate goal of our spiritual maturity in Christ (See Eph.4:13).
Again, I’m not saying we can’t disagree but we should probably stop calling everyone we do disagree with heretics and false teachers with such impunity.
I’m also not talking about accepting any view, but the very diverse, honestly held positions of those who love Jesus and believe in salvation by grace through faith. And most people in all of the aforementioned groups do.
The grievous wolves and false teachers Paul was fighting were not like our particular doctrinal bickerings but against teachers who either didn’t believe that Jesus was real (Gnostics) or that He wasn’t enough to save you (Judaizers).
Furthermore, John said the antichrist is someone who denies that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 2:22). As far as I’m aware, none of these positions mentioned are in this category.
This is why the early Church came up with the Nicene Creed. It was with the purpose of having a common Christian confession of the essential tenets of the faith, so that we could have “in non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love” (Augustine – 354-430 AD).
Maybe, we should remember this again and be about our Father’s business. Just a thought.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, light from light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son],
who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic [universal] and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.