I made a friend a couple of years ago. Before I knew it she became a Jesus follower and, within the past year, has already read the entire Bible and is starting it again. She is kind, good, and passionate about her walk. She loves others well and does what she can to serve. She loves her Bible classes and is soaking up all she can. She’s a new Christian not yet jaded by the inconsistency of religious affairs. I admire and love her. In many ways, I’m even a bit envious of where she is in this beautiful adventure.
While talking with her recently she mentioned where her son worships. And then with a hint of trepidation, admitted that her son was going to a church but it wasn’t the right one.
One of the worst parts of many faith traditions, in some areas, is maintaining a monopoly on all things Christian. It’s a haughty attitude that has solved the mystery of God and aligned the Holy Spirit into a decent and orderly file folder. This belief is not Biblical. It is a false dichotomy perpetrated by those who consider themselves the religious elite.
I grew up in a tribe where religious books were written and given to friends and families informing them of how wrong they were on Spiritual matters. I was told, as a child, that it would be better to marry an atheist than someone of another religious tribe. As an adult, I was once sent a ninety question doctrinal questionnaire while being invited to be a part of a project. The leadership, wanting to nail down exactly where every participant stood on every single possible issue was entrenched in fear. I declined. I was taught early on that my church was the only right religious group. I was never taught about my faith heritage (mine was the Restoration Movement). Was it because my teachers honestly didn’t know or did they keep quiet out of fear to maintain a status quo? Was it about ignorance or innocence? Or maybe power, fear, and greed? That’s just a few, of many questions, I’m working through as I try to untangle my relationship with church.
God has not left us to figure this out on our own. Scripture shows how to respond to those who do church differently. When the disciples, full of self-righteousness, came to Jesus hoping he would condemn those who weren’t following exactly as they were, John states, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” Jesus replied, “Do not stop him. For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:38-40 NIV)
Read that last line again. The one we follow. The one with the words of truth and eternal life. The one who started this mission of bringing his Kingdom to Earth said, “If they’re not against us, they’re for us.”
If Jesus is for unity without uniformity, why aren’t we? Is our arrogance so blinding that we can’t hear the words of the one we follow?
What if the churches within a community worked together to advance the Kingdom of God?
What if we repented and asked forgiveness from those we have chastised and guilted for being a part of other faith traditions?
What if we worked to tear down our walls and built bigger tables?
What if we cared more about being right in the way we love and forgive than the way others do church?
What if we asked why others believe differently, listen to their story, and accept the fact that all of us have our own traditions shaped by those who have come before us? And we’re all, even with our faults, just trying to love Jesus.
If having to be right is hurting your relationships, do like John and take it to Jesus.