Having been in church my whole life, I have met hundreds or even thousands of people who claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ. However, the differences between these people are astounding. Some are extremely strict in their religious practice while others teeter on the edge of worldliness. A few hold positions and standards extremely close to mine, while most see things in a vastly different way. I have been shocked by the depth of some people that stand to the left of me while experiencing dismay at the shallowness of some on my right.
This leads me to ponder a very important question. Aside from the doctrines that are clearly spelled out in the Bible, where do we get our favorite arguing points? I have forty years of experience with churches, and almost thirteen of those years have been spent in full time ministry. In that time I have witnessed many interpersonal struggles that have led to disunity within the body of Christ. Yet I cannot recall a single one of these that was related in any way to clear doctrinal issues. In most cases, the trouble is the result of differences of personal opinion often presented as doctrine.
It seems like the two most explosive areas of debate within the American church today center around Bible versions and music. While people on all sides of these debates have a list of biblical principles that serve to support their position (and I’ve heard them all), I have found very few specific commands in the Bible about either of these two subjects. Nor is there any explicit teaching about how many services a “fundamental” church should hold in a week or what extent technology should be used in a church building. Could it be that God has given each church a measure of freedom in reaching the people in their community?
I am not saying that a church should have an “anything goes” mentality. That is dangerous. Local churches should set up their own parameters and live within them. Sure, there might be some folks who think things should be a little more “traditional.” Someone else would like to push the envelope and become more “relevant.” Both sides would do well to live within the parameters of their church and focus on obeying the specific commands of Jesus Christ.
Maybe we should start with love. Not the false “love” that overlooks sin, but the true love that accepts others who might not want to do things exactly the same way we would.
Jesus said that all men would know we are His disciples by our love (John 13:36). When the world sees us acting with vengeance toward each other over differences of opinion, what do they think? If we are just like them, it is no wonder that they do not want to be like us.
Have any thoughts on this? Comment below or send me an email (email@example.com). I’d love to hear from you!