Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Think and Let Think

It amazes me how much time we waste in the church over matters of opinion and not the core of the Christian faith. What if we spent more time trying to make disciples of Jesus Christ instead of arguing about what color the carpet should be in the worship space, whether to have a Christmas Eve Service and a Christmas Service when Christmas falls on Sunday, whether gay people should be pastors or even members of the church, whether megachurches are the best form for doing church or whether we should have house churches, whether we refer to God as he, she or it. Just imagine if all the energy spent on these types of issues was spent feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and helping persons to have a heart changing encounter with Jesus Christ. Praise God that He still uses us to do great things!! He is an awesome God!!!

I like what John Wesley had to say about controversies like the ones above. Wesley said quoting Augustine, "In Essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love." This doesn't mean an "accept every thought" type of thinking. Instead, it displays a willingness to be open to ,and to work closely with, those whom differ on such matters as worship and teaching that don't affect the essence of Christian belief. The essence of Christian belief would include such things as doctrines about the Trinity, who Christ was and what he did, the human need for God's grace and more. The non-essentials are things like those listed above.

Wesley was responding in his time, at the earliest stages of the Enlightenment, to the bloodshed caused by the wars of religion. I think we do well to hear these words again ourselves in Christianity. While we are not killing each other on the battlefield over opinions, we continue to wage bloody wars of words (on all sides!) that do advance the cause of Christ while people are perishing. Lord, have mercy.

1 comment:

Rob Bohall said...

Hi Robb (and everyone else out there in robbblog land). I'm an ex-Virginian, and was happy indeed to discover that my old pal and pastor is alive and well and continuing to fight the good fight in the name of Christ, in cyberspace and on the ground.

Speaking of essentials vs. non, I had an experience this past weekend in which the Spirit (I believe) gave me warning in this regard.

This past weekend I got hit by two fundraisers in two days, both of whom were seeking donations for faith-based programs.

The first was a guy about 20 years old selling candy/nut gift thingies to raise money to start a new Baptist church in our area. He was super-nervous at first and didn't even make eye contact, but once I got him talking casually he was fine. I looked at his literature and felt fine about supporting him so paid for a candy box and gave an extra five bucks and a "God bless you". Great.

The second fundraising came while I was in the chip aisle at the supermarket (that should have been enough to dissuade me), and was a youngish Japanese woman raising money for an internation student organization that works with kids in developing countries, runs orphanages, etc. Her English was really bad, so she showed me her non-profit license and literature. This all seemed okay and she was super-nice and smiley, but I definitely got a funny and uneasy feeling about this. The literature said the organization was affiliated with an international group for the unification of christianity or something, which rang a warning bell in my head. Being a thick-skulled kind of guy and quite used to ignoring spiritual warnings I gave her ten bucks and wished her well. Outside in the parking lot I realized that the "unification" thing meant she was a follower of the cult leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

I disagree with Baptists on some minor non-essentials of Christian faith, but received no spiritual warning signals at the prospect of supporting them.

There are HUGE differences in essentials between the Unification Church and what the bible teaches -- I received clear warning signals from the Spirit at the prospect of supporting them.

One comfort we can take in such instances is that though we may on occasion be deceived into giving money to less-than-reputable people or organizations, we need not have regrets or bitterness as God will ultimately hold them accountable and take care of convicting them if that be in his will.

One other last point on why we often argue non-essentials: it's easier than turning outward into a hostile world and fighting for Christ, and easier than taking planks out of one's own eye.

--Rob Bohall
rob@bohall.org
Fairfield, OH