It was many years ago when an acquaintance heard where I worshiped and quipped, “Oh, aren’t you the church who thinks you’re the only ones going to Heaven?” Flash forward a decade or so and another associate remarked, “You’re the ones who don’t believe in instrumental music, right?”
It’s a bit vexing that the world has identified us with anything other than Christ. I’d much rather someone ask, “Aren’t you the ones who feed the homeless? Care for the orphans? Run the prison ministry? Have that inner city mission? Love their neighbor? Get along so well with those you disagree with?”
We could discuss the worship practices of the church for hours but there are always going to be people who disagree with each other. So what do we do when faced with doctrinal matters that some classify as issues and issues that others deem doctrine?
– React Righteously
Responding in anger or arrogance severely damages the cause of Christ. Posting comments on videos, articles or Facebook posts or writing open letters or articles that could be perceived as threatening or abusive is unacceptable. We must refuse to give ourselves over to rage and evil because we believe others to be in error. Even if they are. Fighting among ourselves will extinguish any light that we have in this world.
– Build Bridges
Instead of attacking, gossiping or thinking poorly of another, why not offer time to sit down with a cup of coffee and find out why a person’s belief differs? Ask questions. Share stories. Search the Scripture with an open heart and be willing to win a friend even if you can’t come to the same conclusion.
– Instill Love
We have an obligation to teach everyone especially the next generation that respecting an eldership that deems an issue cultural is just as important as respecting a leadership that doesn’t. Valuing each other is vital to the growth of the church. Those who follow differently aren’t our enemies. They are servants of the Master who may be worshiping in error or may just be worshiping differently from us. We need to remember that just because it’s different doesn’t always mean it’s wrong.
– Look to Christ for our example.
When the disciples were aggravated about those working in the name of Jesus but who weren’t part of their group, they took matters straight to the Christ. You can almost see the twelve appalled and stomping their way to Jesus ready to let him know what those other folks were up to. They hadn’t been living with Jesus, walking where he walked and watching what he did. Had they even heard him preach firsthand? They were outsiders and here in a time when Jesus could have prohibited or chastised them for their actions, instead he offers grace and encouragement, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you” (Luke 9:50).
Our mission isn’t to defend the Gospel but to proclaim it by the way we love God, Christ and others. The reaction we give to our brother and neighbor is paramount in our proclamation of that love. We have no time, authority or right to bully or threaten the safety of anyone in the name of Jesus.
There are always going to be people we disagree with on issues and doctrine. However, how we disagree is just as important as what we disagree. Never allow anything to trump the grace that we have received and should be giving. Let the world see us and say, “Look how well they love!”
Paula Harrington www.paulaharrington.wineskins.org