This is the fourth post in the series on a book by Philip Gulley entitle If God Is Love. Here is the quote for this one.
This wrestling with our theology, though absolutely necessary to spiritual growth, often puts our lives out of joint. On several occasions, I thought, “Remind me again why I wanted to question and challenge the beliefs I was taught.” The answer, as with all change, is because what had once satisfied no longer filled me with joy and peace. This spiritual dissatisfaction is a divine gift. God loves us too much to let us remain less than what we can be. Life is designed to challenge our inadequate beliefs and behaviors. Fortunately, God also guides and directs us in new ways. I discovered different answers to questions I’d thought forever settled.
These words have had a profound effect on me the last few years. I was, in so many words, asked to leave my church of eight years because I had grown spiritually enough to know that some of the things they were teaching were simply not what Jesus intended. That discovery, and the sharing of it with some others did put my life out of joint. But as mentioned above this spiritual dissatisfaction was really a divine gift. I no longer found it necessary to believe that Jesus expected nothing from me while I am on this earth. I can now take his constant mantra about being my brother’s keeper more literally than before. God just loves us too much to let us remain less than what we can be.
God gives us challenges throughout our lives. Sometimes, maybe most of the time, we simply ignore them and go on as we had before. But when we accept the challenge we grow in ways we never expected. Painful as it was at the time, throwing away the “poor worthless sinner” excuse for doing nothing in the life has made it much more rewarding than remaining in that dulled state of existence I was in while a member of that congregation.
Many if not most Christian evangelical denominations insist that they are the only ones who 100% understand the nature of God. They each believe everyone else is wrong to one degree or another. There sometimes seems to be more arguing with fellow Christians among themselves than there is any sharing of the Word with those outside their current brand of beliefs. In that regard it is nice to see at least one Christian organization that is not out to prove everyone else is wrong. click the following link to see an article by a Quaker author about being peacemakers. http://www.friendsjournal.org/personal-peacemaking
The above article is from an August 2008 Friends Journal but is timeless in its advice. It covers 21 tips on personal peacemaking but could also be applied at the denominational level. To tweak your curiosity I will include a few of the tips here along with a brief personal perspective on what they might mean in regards to inter-denominational squabbles that occur regularly today.
- Making fun of the person you are in conflict with, or engaging in sarcasm or ridicule, is poison.
Ridicule of our opponents on Christian issues seems to be almost the norm today as it is in our current political environments. Of course when we are ridiculed we immediately know that it is a poison to any rational debate. Even various theologians seem to use this vehicle against those who disagree with them.
- Judging a person or deciding “who is wrong and who is right” is just another form of blaming.
Jesus had a lot to say about judgment and this is just another way to say what he said.
- We are responsible at all times for choosing behavior that meets our highest moral/ethical standards
The Golden Rule should be how we treat everyone; even those who we disagree with.
- Blame is not a helpful concept.
We should quit trying to prove everyone else is wrong and just go about our lives as Jesus taught us by treating each of our brothers, both Christian and non-Christian with respect. Creating over 35,000 different versions of Christ is harmful to each of us and to the Body of Christ in general. These conflicts are definitely not in the instructions Jesus gave us.
As I have mentioned in the recent past I have disassociated myself with the Christian church that I was part of for over nine years. I have always tried to not mention what my religious affiliations were on this blog but now that they are severed I will say it was with a LCMS Lutheran church. The pastor of the church was a regular viewer of this blog and gave several often opposing comments which I welcomed. I thought we had agreed to disagree on some of the secondary issues surrounding our individual faiths. That was fine with me. But then I was given notice that since I had among other things so publicly stated that I believe in the “day age” version of Genesis instead of the seven-day 24 hour version he would be taking my case to the elders to get my communion privileges revoked and therefore effectively removing me from membership! If I had not short circuited the process by voluntarily leaving it this would have resulted in a formal inquisition where I would be asked to disavow these false beliefs.
During our discussions on this topic the statement was made that we cannot each decide what to believe about the church or the Bible. Instead we must all believe what the church leadership tells us is the truth. To do otherwise, I was told, would result in mass confusions. In afterthought it seems very ironic to me that I was chastised for trying to understand the Bible on my own terms, especially by a Lutheran church. After all isn’t that what the founder of the Lutheran church actual did! He dared to go against current church beliefs and especially their practices.
But I have to admit that this type of thing probably goes on in almost all Christian denominations today. If you don’t tow the line and believe what you are told to believe then you are chastised in one form or another. In my studies of different Christian organizations about the only one I have found that does not do this are the Quakers. They basically allow any of their members to believe just about anything they want. I think they go too far in the other direction. There has to be some very basic core beliefs in order to call yourself a Christian. But most denominations today go way beyond that set of core beliefs and instead base their membership qualification more on church tradition and practices than anything else.
So here I am trying to understand the Bible on my own and not rely on someone else to tell me what each verse means. Maybe I should post my 95 theses on my old church’s doors. Who knows what might happen. (ha) I will continue to be a very fervent follower of Jesus Christ but not a member of any particular current day denomination. At least for now.