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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Religious Differences

How many Christian religions are there in America today? Do you know? Do you understand their differences? Do you care? Is it a bit like transportation --- where several different brands all provide the same basic value (transportation)?

We look at the Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Catholics, Mennonites, Amish, Quaker, Baptist, Friends, Church of Christ, Church of God, Assemblies of God ... the list just seems to go on and on. They all profess to believe in a risen Christ (Jesus) and worship one God. Yet several of them seem to be exclusive in that they don't believe the other denominations are headed to the same place. They don't believe the vehicle provides the same basic value (in getting you to eternal heaven).

Then there are the new religions. You know the ones. Perhaps you're involved in one (or more of them). They're the "non-denominational" churches, Bible churches, community churches and house churches. Maybe they're "purpose driven" churches. They are the "open belief" churches, such as B'Hai or Unitarian Universalists. These are particularly popular because you can believe pretty much whatever you want in these religions. They think everyone is right and it doesn't really matter.

So what is really going on here? Which denomination is the appropriate one? Which denomination does God belong to? Does one have more favor with God than another? Arent' they all pretty much the same? Aren't their differences petty? Do they really matter? Should I really care?

Most of the people who look at churches and religions tend to look at a couple of things. First, they look at what they can get out of it. "What's in it for me?" They evaluate the attractiveness of the church or religion. Once they make a preliminary determination that the religion can meet their needs, they move on to the second criteria. "What are the differences?"

Do you really think that's the right question to ask? Are those the right questions to ask? "What's in it for me?" "What are their differences?" Do we really want to make decisions about eternal life based on selfish desires and sources of conflict?

So here's the thing. It seems to me, from reading and studying religions of the world, that most of the religions and denominations in the world today arose from disagreements. People in one religion would focus on a difference, divide and start a new denomination. What do you suppose might have happened if they had instead focused on their points of agreement ... instead of their differences? What might it be like if they had chosen being reconciled over being right?

Folks, we can demonize one another, crusade against each other and remain divided. Or we can look at a religious denomination for what we can put into it --- and then choose to be reconciled with each other to whatever extent possible. There will always be reasons to be divided ... new religions and denominations will continue to be birthed out of those differences. But what could the world be like ... what could be birthed if instead we chose to serve, focusing on our points of agreement?

So how many denominations do you agree with in the world today? How much of what they believe is shared in your own beliefs? How much of what we all believe is grounded in Biblical truth?

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