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Friday, January 22, 2010

Religious Controversy

Did you know that most of the wars fought in the last few hundred years have been fought over religious issues? Talk about religious controversy!

It's true. We think that loud-mouthed religious people are the thorn in our sides today. What we fail to understand is that we've had strongly opinionated religious people espousing their views and offending others for centuries.

It is nothing new. If you Google "religious controversy," you'll find more than nine pages of issues listed. It's an astounding array of things that religious (and many godly) people argue about through the ages.

Ironically, the Christian Bible calls all of Christ's followers to be united ... and not divided. In fact, it calls us to put aside our differences and be reconciled with each other. We are to let Jesus Christ be the common denominator among all of us, transcending all of our differences in age, culture, gifts, preferences, traditions, etc.

The thing is, the New Testament says that Christ will return to take His bride --- the (unified and not divided) church --- to be with Him forever. She will be perfect in nature, and perfect in her devotion to Him? So what does this mean? In simple terms, it means that Christ expects the various denominations and sects that proclaim Him as the Messiah to be reconciled to each other --- ready for His return.

Are we ready? I think not! There are literally dozens of Christian denominations operating in just the U.S. alone. And their numbers are growing. Each new denomination is formed from a split --- and unresolved difference. And each denomination smugly believes that their understanding and/or application of truth is superior to that of anyone else.

So here's the thing ... they cannot all be right. In fact, it's a pretty good bet that most of them are wrong. The Bible says that we are not to lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Who is that meant for?

Could anyone really have an exclusive lock on understanding God's truth? Is there any chance that no understanding is possible until the corporate church works through its disparate understandings? Is that effort part of the understanding itself?

I've blogged before about the criteria that people use to pick churches. Often when they are considering another church, the first question they'll ask is how it differs from another church (which they are most likely already familiar with). In other words, we first focus on the differences. And yet God calls us to rise above our differences. He asks us to be united in spite of our differences.

To be sure, there will be differences. Why? For starters, it's part of our human experience. We are all wonderfully made, but different in some very complex ways. So there's a natural bent to divide us according to our differences. And as we go through life, the opportunities to develop even more differences abound.

Secondly, we are all maturing spiritually at different rates. God is revealing Himself and His will to each of us in a different time frame. We are each on our own individual journey with God. So it's possible that He's revealed something to you which He has not yet revealed to me.

I don't think I'd be very good at debating the issues in religion. I don't think I could even moderate a panel of scholars or other experts who would debate the issues. Philippians 4:8 tells us to focus our minds on things that are "excellent and worthy of praise." I'm pretty sure that religious differences don't qualify! But I have to concede that those religious differences can be pretty distracting at times.

We can only pray that the good Lord will give each of us vision to see beyond our respective differences. Only then will the corporate church of Christ-followers ... from all denominations ... be able to dress as the true bride of Christ.

1 comment:

  1. As the body of Christ, some topics we can debate but not divide over. There are some fundamental beliefs that unfortunately do cause division. As Christians we are called to be of one mind and purpose. Loving one another is a good start.