I am reading several books right now that deal with the concept of forgiveness, I can state with full confidence that within faith circles there can be wide differences in how to accomplish this important act. I have read the opinions of prominent theologians as well as those who are walking through the difficult challenges of this at times lifelong process, and found that one size does not fit all.
I am not writing about forgiveness specifically today, but about the core fact that differences exist, and its OK. I want to address what has always been a problem for the Christian, and a bone of contention that continues to drive wedges between us.
As an example, there are several preachers that are easily labeled by certain factions of the church as speaking to “itching ears.” I have heard people evaluate a preacher off a few sound bites or word of mouth and totally dismiss the ministry they lead. There is a mega church overseas that has a well-known worship ministry, but because the church does things differently is seen by some as shallow and fake. In fact, there are churches in your town that are the subject of gossip, and that if you had the opportunity would not be shy in speaking of your real or perceived reasons for running them down.
I have done it myself! However, I have had a bit of a revelation in this area.
I am not going to name names, but the preacher who speaks hope to the struggling, strength to the weak, and grace to the fallen on a consistent basis is branded as weak, dispensing milk to the baby Christian. Why is that? Wasn’t there a point for you in which that message was exactly what you needed? Have you moved past that vulnerable stage? Is it so far in your rear view mirror that you see no need or purpose for a message that speaks to this area of a persons spiritual life?
Congratulations, you are eating spiritual meat! It so happens there are others in this world that haven’t advanced to your state of growth, or find themselves in a place that they need to receive massive doses of grace just to survive. If you sense a bit of attitude in my words you are not mistaken. I have seen way to much judgement and infighting that has brought the church down in the eyes of the world, and divisions within its walls. (I am not eluding to our sin and its devastating effect on fellow believers. I can speak very well of hypocrisy bringing more mistrust upon the church, for I have been guilty of that myself. I am paying the price for my actions and now on the outside looking in, prevented from realizing the call of God on my life. I write of this in my blog post, “Living a Limitless Life”, here. We as Christians need to speak truth and be persons of integrity, we should be the same people when in a crowd or when no one is looking; I agree with all that. but haven’t always put it into practice.)
Why can’t we just find the grace and acceptance that says we are all in this together? The message being preached at one church doesn’t have to have the same focus at yours, God speaks to each of us differently at times and that is really good, and very important. If our words were the only ones ever heard, it would leave a terrible void in the life of another.
Whether we realize it or not, our lives have boiled down to a mostly singular theme. It could be one of grace, judgement, mercy, faith, or any number of others, but it is undeniable that our experiences have shaped the way we live and the drum we constantly beat.
7 The Holy Spirit displays God’s power through each of us as a means of helping the entire church.8 To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; someone else may be especially good at studying and teaching, and this is his gift from the same Spirit. 9 He gives special faith to another, and to someone else the power to heal the sick. 10 He gives power for doing miracles to some, and to others power to prophesy and preach. He gives someone else the power to know whether evil spirits are speaking through those who claim to be giving God’s messages—or whether it is really the Spirit of God who is speaking. Still another person is able to speak in languages he never learned; and others, who do not know the language either, are given power to understand what he is saying. 11 It is the same and only Holy Spirit who gives all these gifts and powers, deciding which each one of us should have. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 (TLB)
Can we find common ground in the core issues of Christianity, the real foundational elements that are unquestionable? Isn’t it possible that in our differences which seem so monumental, we can find further enrichment of our faith? I am not saying we run hither and yon following every wind of doctrine, but I do believe its time we abandon our fanatical defense of every single position we hold as sacred, to our specific denominations especially. Let us prayerfully and openly consider concepts and practices that will not separate us, but bind us together in Christ Jesus.