In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Are Differences Always Wrong?

I really enjoy reading blogs.

Lots of times I notice that many blogs by Christians criticize the organized church in America. One of the common criticisms is that there are so many different denominations and groups.

But is that necessarily wrong?

I personally do not think so.

I think that among those of us who have accepted Jesus' death on the cross in our place, given our lives over to His care and to follow after Him, and to whom He's given His Holy Spirit - sometimes we will not be in total agreement over issues that are not the main Christian doctrines. It seems reasonable that we would be most comfortable worshiping with others who have a like mind regarding "side issues" such as how we set up our church services. I think the main thing is that we need to always remember that the side issues are not the main issues. The main issue is that God sent Jesus to die in our place and that every human needs Him. We are to be sharing this truth and loving and helping those around us because God wants to love and help people through us. Just because I may worship on a Sunday at a specific denominational church, I may still be working alongside another Christ follower who worships on Sundays at a different denominational church, to reach out to the poor or needy in my community, or to tutor kids at the local local school, or in whatever other endeavor I feel God leading me.

I don't think the issue is if we have several different churches, each of whom see side issues differently. I think the issue is if each of these churches is respectful of the others, if we are all aware of the fact that together we comprise the body of our Lord Jesus Christ on this earth.

However, having said that, I do recognize that not every group that calls itself "Christian" really is. The reason some particular religious groups are considered cults, even if they call themselves Christians, is simply because they differ from the the main Christian doctrines that comprise historic Christianity. They are not considered "cults" because they are thought to be bad people individually, but because they do not hold to beliefs that are essentially Christian. The link I have here for main Christian doctrines lists only the most very basic tenants of the Christian faith; any group that does not hold to these is not in it's essence Christian. I'm uncomfortable when Christians are trying to be so all encompassing that they fail to make this differentiation because without salvation through Jesus, we are lost. I don't want to be so caught up in being nice and inclusive that I let someone go to hell. On the other hand, I have a few friends who are involved in cults and I do not go around trying to shove the gospel down their throats. I love these friends and count myself blessed to be their friend and have them in my life; I seek to be the best friend possible to them, pray for them, and seek when and how and if God wants me to speak out anything to them.

What about you, do you think differences are always wrong? When do you think you need to "draw the line" and how do you do that?


RCUBEs said...

For me, we will always have our differences. But what's sad is that when Christians are not getting along when they should be, as that's His commandment: to love one another. It's not about what church you belong to...It all comes down to having a personal relationship with the Lord. It's all about Him.

John Cowart said...

Hi Tracy,

I'm commenting on the entry you made yesterday about trying to do right but with bad results following.

I've thought about your posting overnight. You've made a serious point here.

It reminded me of a thing I wrote several years ago, so this morning I re-posted that entry; it's called "The Lord God Almighty And His Duck Matilda".

I don't know about the denominational issues you raise this morning, all the theology I know, I learned from a duck.

Matt @ The Church of No People said...

Hey Tracy, thanks for your comments on Wednesday's post. I was so impressed, I had to use what you said for today's post!

May said...

To me differences are not always wrong. Just because we do not hold the same beliefs doesn't mean that it is wrong. No matter how one slice it or dice it there's only One God. It is about each person keeping their relatioship w/God true and real.

Bud Ezekiel H. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Maryland Crustacean said...

Some (not all) of the differences between the different flavors of Christianity stem from what Paul called "disputable matters" (Romans 14:1). He was referring to practices and preferences which, though they may have their place in certain contexts and situations, are not essential to the Gospel, which is, "of first importance"

In I Corinthians, Paul was writing to a group of Christians who had spent way too much time majoring on minors and had forgotten the essence of the Gospel. They had forgotten the main event that defined who they were: that Jesus Christ had died for their sins and rose again:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” [I Corinthians 15:3-4)

The differences are fine as long as we recognize them as such... as "disputable matters".

Anonymous said...

I personally think it's sad when churches try to cut each other down.

Yes, I'm of the mindset that I still want to go to a church, and be a part of a specific body of people, but I don't criticize those that don't.

Instead, I will share my point quietly with them as they notice that Sunday after Sunday, you will find me in a church.


Michelle said...

I believe it is sad the Church is so divided. I believe there is one Truth and it would be amazing if we could work together to see the whole message God is trying to give us through His word. I believe all these differences come from man's traditions.

The Maryland Crustacean said...

A few points:

1. It should be fully expected that there are various flavors of Christianity, because as it has spread throughout the world, it has been malleable and has adapted to the various cultures, languages and customs. This was evident from the very beginning with the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, where Jewish believers recognized that Gentile believers never could nor would follow the law of Moses.

Christianity is not a tribal or ethnic religion as are some others; rather, it allows for differing cultural norms to shape its practice. While there are indeed essentials of the faith on which there is no compromise, it should be expected that there will be differences

Rev 7:9-10 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."

2. Even denominational differences are not harmful as long as we agree on the essentials of the Gospel (and otherwise aren’t fighting each other). In a sense, they reveal God’s “manifold wisdom”, as Paul puts it in Ephesians 3:10. After centuries of the institutionalized church losing sight of the Gospel, Martin Luther came along to revive God’s revelation of salvation by faith alone. Calvin added an emphasis of God’s sovereignty and election. Baptists came afterwards and emphasized the importance of people making an intelligent, informed decision for Christ before being baptized into the faith. So it was with Christian leaders in the centuries to follow, even to this day. Do any of them have a corner on the truth? No. Do they all believe in the matters “of first importance” (the Gospel)? I hope so (and for the most part, I think so.

3. I personally came out of a Catholic background, which I pretty much turned my back on, particularly since I first understood and accepted the Gospel. Yet though I still have some significant theological differences with Catholicism, I can agree with them to the extent that they believe the Gospel. I cannot discard and discount the accumulated wisdom of their rich history, and I know a number of Catholics whom I would count as better Christians than myself. In the same way as with other denominations, I might have a different take on some finer points of theology, but I can certainly still have fellowship with them.

Being Me said...

No differences are not always wrong. The words, the names, the gestures can all differ.

Ultimately it is the act and the love towards others that it boils down to.

We are all heading towards the same destination.


Tracy said...

I always enjoy the different takes each person has on an issue. Your comments make me think about things more.

May - I think you underscore an important truth that when it's all said and done we each must look to our own relationship with God.

Maryland Crustacean - You make the point I was trying to make so much better - that there will be differences in disputable matters due to experiences, cultures, etc.

Michelle - I adore how you frequently challenge my thinking. While I agree that there is but one truth, I think it's a wise guess that most sincere Christians believe they are following that truth - yet they all do not agree. My point being that scripture is God inspired, God breathed, authoritative, error free, truth - but us humans aren't that; we mess up, even when we have the best intentions, we sometimes miss the point. God is a mystery to us at the deepest levels. So, for me, I choose to keep seeking, keep following and trust that God will accomplish what He chooses in my life.

Marty - As I've said before, your commitment to the local body as a 20yr old man encourages me. It's an example to me that perhaps my 17yr old son will come to that point too some day.

Being Me & Rcube - you're so right. In Matthew 22:36-40 we see that when Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment He said that the bottom line was loving God and loving others.

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