Have you seen the people with signs that say, “You’re Going to Hell”? Ya, me too.
Well, I used to be the person that would go up to them and ‘challenge’ them.
“Why are you portraying Jesus in this way?!”
I took their hateful declarations as a personal offense, and I took it upon my shoulders to see it corrected.
I have also been the one to challenge almost anything I saw as not “in-line with the Spirit” or “not Biblical.” I do think there is a role for that, but I am saying this to you because I wanted to emphasize that...
I am the epitome of what I am arguing against.
Over the last year and a half, my heart has been breaking for the division in the Christian Church. Maybe some of you are like me in that you have engaged in Christian “debates.”
These debates= people claim that their way of loving Jesus is –if not the ONLY good way- at least ‘definitely the best.’
I get it.
I genuinely understand the conviction to tell others of what you have found to be “right”. I also get what it feels like to be on the other side of that conversation (listening to someone that is trying to convince you). In that case, your “side” feels so desperately and hopelessly unheard.
So, I’m just going to get to the point. We have all ran into people that we thought were flat out wrong. For some people, the “wrong” are the ones who stand on the corner holding the signs. For others, the “wrong” are the non-denominational Christians that are “too whimsical.” For others, its “Catholics,” “Protestants,” etc etc. You get it. It can be anyone for any given person.
Lately, the people I have seen as “wrong” are cult-members. Just this last month, I have had many conversations about the “cults” around us. I almost had a fit as I dove into research, finding “cult recovery” internet pages. For one, I had no idea how huge of a deal it is and (2) how long it takes for the person to come out of it. I guess I just hadn’t thought about it before. (If you are questioning whether the organization you are in is a cult, here’s a page to look at. http://www.letusreason.org/cults.htm)
It was quite easy for me to think, “they are wrong,” but the thing is- after many conversations about cults, it’s become so apparent to me that we all think we are right. We most likely wouldn’t be practicing the way that we do if we thought we were wrong. Regardless of our confidence in our own denomination, church, etc; others will be just as confident in the way they follow Jesus.
I think they are wrong, but they think I am wrong.
Last year, I was told “You are not as right as me in faith” from a good friend. After countless conversations about differences in Jesus-loving, I found myself in yet another “debate” in my living room with this friend. Feeling hopeless and a little annoyed (as I’m sure, he was also annoyed with me), I retreated to my room and asked God to PLEASE give me some encouragement, a verse, ANYTHING.
He responded with “1 Peter 3.” I don’t always hear such an answer, but this time, it was crystal clear. I turned the pages quickly. Here’s what I found :
Verses 8-16 (NIV):
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (emphasis added by me)
I thanked God dearly for His message to me. I believe division actually breaks His heart more than it breaks ours.
Today looking over those sections, I realize that every Jesus-follower could read the verses and think that the passage is encouraging them in what they believe is right. How easy is it to read that passage and develop a “me vs. them” mentality? But –strictly opinion- I don’t think that’s what Jesus would want.
-The people on the corners with signs are doing what they believe is faithful
-Members of cults are doing what believe is faithful
-People in specific churches are doing what they believe is faithful
- And I am doing what I believe is faithful
I believe that it would be ideal if we all got along, and I want to be more intentional with praying that our hearts are aligned more and more with the heart of the Father…
But there is absolutely one thing in my control right now. Even though I think I am right, I can realize that others think they are too…and I can humble myself and acknowledge that they are trying very hard to be faithful to Jesus (just not in the way I would choose). I can pray that Jesus show all of us more of himself and more of the way that He desires us to be. I can ask the Spirit for guidance. After all, the Spirit is referred to as the teacher (“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26). Most of all, if the Spirit does lead me in a different direction; I can have the boldness to follow it-- checking with the Bible (which we know is God’s voice) to make sure that I am heading in a good direction.
In regards to others, I can realize that they are my family. They do not have to affirm me in my faith for me to love them as brothers and sisters. I can offer to them the love that I feel Jesus would offer them. I can “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” And I can “do this with gentleness and respect.”
Just so I’m clear, I do not think everyone is right in his/her ways of Jesus-following. For one, I do not agree that our works earn us salvation. (which surprisingly narrows it down quite a bit). I also think that God would never want us to hate people. But thats not the point.
The point is: I believe that I am BEST-OFF in being secure in what I know is true of God, AND being accepting to the fact that others will have the same confidence in different things. As a person, a daughter of Christ, I can humble myself to accept that they could know something that I do not…but to be hesitant to follow until the Spirit and the Word confirm.
What would it look like for us to be secure, and yet also listening to our brothers and sisters? Can’t we listen without debating? Aren't there times when we can love others without telling them “You are straight wrong”?
There are times that we can correct our brothers and sisters, but I have learned that this should be done in humility—keeping in mind that they are doing what they believe is best serving God.
This humility is key, and I think it often leads to the “gentleness and respect” that Jesus asks of us. I think that if we all were able to be humble, yet secure and discerning, we could engage so freely in conversations and truly appreciate each other. We would all be able to stand with shoulders back and head held high, even if we realize “Oh, you know- I think you are right in that.”
I think I’ll be learning about God until the day I die, and that excites me. And I know the Spirit (who is God) is with me - helping me discern, and the Bible is next to me- helping me as well.