Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sometimes I am amazed at the rancor that takes place among Christian men and women about the "right" reading of scripture, doctrine, the "right" way to govern a church, etc. and so forth ad nauseum. And, I am not talking about having such discussions over things like whether Christ is divine, whether salvations is secure, whether salvation is by grace alone or requires some works, or whether Christ is the only way to the Father. I am talking about great angst and argument over things like whether there are such things as "private prayer languages," whether women can serve in certain roles in ministry, whether worship is too charismatic or not, whether anyone can conduct baptism or whether certain people can participate in the Lord's supper.

I appreciated Dorcas Hawker's recent post on choosing optimism in the midst of this atmosphere. And, it doesn't even require people of different religions or denominations within faiths to develop such rancor. In fact, often the most heated discussions take place within single denominations. And, while in the midst of all the stormy dialogue accusations arise, attacks are made, battle lines are drawn, and all of it is done in the name of defending the faith.

I don't want to stop just at choosing optimism, however, I want to choose faith in the One True Living God! Let me explain.

I frankly don't understand the rancor among Christians. To be Christians means to be like Christ. And, being like Christ and showing that we love Jesus means to obey Jesus. Jesus is the Word and obeying Him means obeying His word. Moreover, it would seem that walking by faith clearly would be to obey the Word regardless of whether it makes sense or not.

So, what does the Word teach us about our conduct and attitudes toward brothers and sisters in Christ? First, we know that Jesus' last recorded lengthy prayer included a prayer for us that we would be one and brought to complete unity to let the world know that the Father sent the Son and have loved them even as the Father loved the Son. John 17:20-23. (But unity isn't a primary doctrine, and what is unity really??? It can't mean that we don't argue over things, does it??) We know that blessed are the peacemakers, who will be called the children of God. Matthew 5:9. We are commanded not to judge. Matthew 7:1. We are taught that God is in control and that we shouldn't worry about anything as though we might some how change something with all our worry; instead, we should seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness. Matthew 6:25-34.

We are taught to owe no man anything except love and to love them as we love ourselves. Romans 13:8-10. We are told to bless those who persecute us, to bles and not curse; to live in harmony with one another; not to be proud; not to repay anyone evil for evil and to be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. We are even told to do all that is possible within our own power to live at peace with everyone! (But God, didn't you hear what he said about me? I mean, how can I just walk away from those comments?) We are told not to take revenge and leave room for God's wrath and to overcome evil with good. Romans 12:9-21.

More? How about accepting him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. Romans 14:1. (But God, how can I do that, I have to disciple him, don't I??? What if he spreads that opinion??? Surely I can be the guardian of "the truth" (as I see it).)

People ask, "What is wrong with the church today?" "Why is it not having the impact on culture that it should, given the power of Jesus?" Or, even in our own lives we ask, "Why do I seem to be so powerless to battle this sin within me?" "Why does it seem I fail in my Christian walk?"

Could it be as simple as the fact that we aren't living by the words of the One true Living God? I think of God's words to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6, when he tells them to keep His words upon their hearts, to impress them on their children, to talk about them when they sit at home and when they walk along the road, when they lie down and when they get up. (How often do we do that??) He tells them that if they do these things that all will go well. God tells us plainly that people will know that we are Christians by our love. The church loses its saltiness to the world when it doesn't live by faith upon the loving words of the Word, Jesus, and people have no reason to follow us because we don't appear to be following Christ.

I believe the only way we will truly reach this dark world for Christ is to repent of our lack of faith and of the many idols we worship. Just as it talked about in 2 Chronicles 7:14, God's people must humble themselves and pray and seek His face and turn/repent from their wicked ways. If there are any who believe they don't have wicked ways or that they are following all the commands, then please continue to do so; otherwise, we need to join together in humility and beg the forgiveness of our gracious and loving God for our pettiness, doubt, and lack of love.

I know there will be many Southern Baptist leaders gathering soon to discuss matters significant to that denomination. I pray they will choose complete surrender to the Spirit's leading and the Father's call upon their lives, wholly choosing to follow the principles God has spelled out for all of us. I pray that I, and all of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, will do so as well.


John Stickley said...

Thanks for the encouraging words, Bryan. This is a must-read for everyone.

Rachel said...

Bryan, I am so blessed by this, so so true. Thanks!

Bryan Riley said...

Thanks, John and Rachel. It's simple, really, when we take God at His word. I don't think there's anything profound in what I've said; I just hope to point my life and others to what He has already said and done and is continuing to say and do.

Debbie said...

Bryan thank you for this, both your post and the post you linked to with Dorcas Hawker are both much needed and you said it well. I hope what John Stickley has said that everyone will not just read this but take it to heart. I know I have.

Paul Burleson said...


Well said my friend. Keep up the thinking and the conveying of those thoughts. We all benefit.

Paul B.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the good words, Bryan. I agree. Florence of KY