Over the last few days I have been in discussion with other writers about Christian literature. The topic has evoked a range of responses that has me at a place of wonder. The cause of dissension between Christians was not really surprising, because we are all humans, with our own emotions and how we evoke our understanding of scripture.
Part of the separation of church in 1054 was a history of divergence, separating the one Catholic Church into two. Despite their professed faith of the same divine persons, with the same hopes and fears, they still had irreconcilable differences. Then later in the 16th century, we experienced the reformation of the Protestant faith.
Today we experience a variety of church growth, which is called church planting. This is mostly done in the Protestant faith. Although there are many churches, they are not all necessarily filled to capacity. And at the same time we see Catholic churches needing to close due to lack of membership and support.
I’ll be honest. Although my husband and I used to attend church regularly, it is less frequent. Since our marriage we have been members of three churches, and left when leadership became misleading with scripture and negative behavioral example. Even as members, we saw how people mistreated and used one another and passed judgment. But, as a Christian, you accept that because you yourself are not perfect, neither is your sister or brother. Even our pastors and priests, although held in high regard, they are just as human, with the same temptations and desires.
Today I watched how Christians attacked one another, despite the efforts of many of us, of different faiths tried to focus on scripture, personal interpretation resulted in a very messy dialog with a few members, while one mandating one way of thinking. It resulted in attacking insults, which were unnecessary and very unchristian.
Church leaders wonder why people step away, why they don’t want to commit to “their” church, or why they simply do not wish to participate in such hypocrisy. We have attended a variety of churches and have asked questions, yet we have not become regular members to any one building of believers. Why? Because it is very painful to watch people I grow to love, hurt and judge one another. When we stop attending, the most interesting thing we have observed is how no one reaches out to ask why. They stop communicating. Yet, when we meet up with some, we are asked “are you still a Christian?”
When we claim to be Christian, we have a responsibility. We are not perfect and will make mistakes. But, with our mistakes, we are accountable for our actions. I find that the hardest thing most Christians have a hard time with, is the concept of asking for forgiveness. I’m not talking about the “act” of saying “I’m sorry”, but rather the genuine act of asking one for forgiveness. When we approach someone with the words, “Will you forgive me?” it denotes a sense of responsibility, remorse for one’s actions along with an act of genuine love. Although humbling, the results are amazing.
The act of forgiveness is like putting your heart on the table. You risk it being crushed and hurt. Yet you also open it up to receive the warmth of another person who is humbled by your act of sincere love and accountability.
Fortunately I did not get into the emotional aspect of the painful dialog today, but I was comfortable to share my thoughts. I did not have a problem with someone disagreeing, because the dialog I was having was positive. We can’t possibly all come away with the same interpretation of the Bible and what our values should be. We all attend different churches and hear different leaders preach differently on the same scripture passage.
There are a few things that are quite clear in scripture:
- God is the one and only judgment of Christian character.
- We are to act towards others in the same way in which we desire to be treated ourselves.
- We are to give from our hearts and not out of obligation.
- We should have a humble heart.
- We should try to replicate that act of love as Jesus shared with us
…and the list goes on. It is not rocket science, but rather common sense. Although it is God’s desire that we all know scripture from beginning to end, God admires the faithful Christian who desires to be like him, avoiding conflict whenever possible, and when it can’t be done, take the opportunity to make things right.
Matthew 5:23-24 shares that before we are to give our gift to God, we are to be reconciled to our brother/sister in Christ. This type of forgiveness keeps us from being angry, which keeps us from being separated from our relationship with God.
As a final note, in my opinion as a result of what I have read and understand about Jesus in scripture, it is not just our Christian brothers and sisters that we are accountable to. We should also act in love to all those we encounter in life, as it is our act of Christian love that will lead them to an understanding of what true Christian faith is all about. Yet, when we act self-righteously, we negate all that we claim to be as Christians.
“If we do not love one another, we certainly shall not have much power with God in prayer.” ~ D.L. Moody ~
Be blessed with the abundance of love that can filter from within your heart.