by Graham Pockett
There are 2 billion Christians, and 2 billion doctrines!
Of course, most agree on more than just the basics, summed up brilliantly in the Nicene Creed from the Fourth Century (see below), but why don't Christians believe exactly the same set of doctrines? Can any Christian be "right" when no two agree?
Why are there different churches – the Catholics, the Presbyterians, the Baptists, the Charismatics, the Evangelicals, the Pentecostals, etc?
Is there a "right" church and a "wrong" church? Will only members of the "right" church go to Heaven?
As I said, Christianity is a strange religion. Can people, who call themselves Christian but who cannot agree, be part of the one true Faith? The simple answer is "yes" – God knows every hair on our head and He treats us as individuals. What is particularly pertinent to one person because of his or her special needs may not be pertinent to another.
“God is judging us on our heart, not on the doctrines we follow or the rules we enforce.”
You can worship God when singing ancient hymns with the backing of a full pipe organ, getting involved with the Gospels sounds of a modern band, or simply standing under the stars and acknowledging His great workmanship. You can worship God with your head bowed in reverence, or when holding your hands high in joyful praise (sometimes called the "Pentecostal antennae"). You can love God during a Mass with a priest officiating, or when speaking in tongues. God knows every way you worship with your heart, and loves them all. What may sound strange to someone else, does not sound strange to God.
Christians follow the teachings of the Bible, but there are many parts in that book that are open to various interpretations. Instead of God giving us a set of rules (which many would see how far could be bent), He gives us a set of guidelines, and it is those guidelines which are, themselves, open to interpretation.
God is judging us on our heart, not on the doctrines we follow or the rules we enforce. He wants our love and loyalty, like a partner in a marriage, but He does not want a pre-nuptial agreement. He wants us to put Him first in our lives – before our spouses, before our children, and before ourselves. If the Bible was a pre-nuptial agreement then we would have to employ lawyers to ensure that we received our Heavenly rewards. Priests, ministers and pastors are not, or should not try to be, lawyers for God.
In Genesis 37, Moses relates the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors, a coat that represents the various flavors or colors of the church today. We place over our faith the coat of a particular color, a particular denomination, a form of worship that suits us. The denomination that we align ourselves with (by choice or by birth) is the wrapper that covers our faith. It is not, or should not be, the core of our faith.
“God recognizes our ‘coat of many colors’ because He knows us as individuals, and loves us, even with all our human frailties and our meager strengths.”
Joseph's coat was covered with the blood of a goat (a satanic symbol) because of the sinful actions of Joseph's brothers, but our coat of many colors is covered with the blood of the Lamb. Like Joseph's father, Jacob, God recognizes our "coat of many colors" because He knows us as individuals, and loves us, even with all our human frailties and our meager strengths. The one unifying aspect of Christianity is the Bible, and there is no one "right" Bible – all Bibles are right with God if they are used as a tool for loving Him, for worshipping Him, and for being obedient to Him. The words of the Book of Life have great power, even when quoted from different translations or in different languages.
If God judged us on the church we went to, on the Bible translation we used, or by the doctrine we adhered to, none of us would go to Heaven because no Christian has 100% "right" doctrine. Isn't it fortunate that He judges us on our heart, not by the church we go to, not by the day of the week on which we worship Him, not by whether we have been christened as infants, not by whether we have been water baptized as adults – these are the wrappers of Christianity, they are not the core teachings of Jesus.
As one of the 2 billion Christians in the world today I know that my own set of beliefs is unique. I know that I am often wrong when judged by man, but I also believe that I am not wrong in God. He knows me, He knows my heart, He knows my weaknesses and my strengths. He blesses me when I put my own sinful desires to one side and place Him first in my life.
“I know that I cannot exactly agree with the doctrine of every other Christian, or any other Christian, but that does not mean that I do not love them.”
He knows that I am truly repentant of the many sins I have committed in my life, and He also knows that I strive never to repeat a sin. That I am not always 100% successful is the shame I carry but, like all good fathers, He loves me in spite of my own shame and guilt. He loves me and I love Him. I know that I cannot exactly agree with the doctrines of every other Christian, or even any other Christian, but that does not mean that I do not love them. I consider everyone who believes in the Nicene Creed to be my brother or sister in Christ, irrespective of our doctrinal differences. If they are not Christian (that is, they do not believe in the Nicene Creed, whether they are Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons or atheists) then I consider them my neighbor (the Second Commandment from Jesus as outlined in Matthew 22:39)...
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." [Matthew 22:36-40 NIV]
We all need to exercise more love towards our fellow Christians and our neighbors. There needs to be love between Baptists and Charismatics, between Catholics and Protestants. Any person who calls himself Christian has a responsibility to follow the two Commandments of Jesus – to love God and to love their neighbor.
If you are ready to commit to the Lord do it here and now!
If this subject interests you I suggest you read Do you know what really annoys me about God? by Dr Barry Chant (yes, the title is tongue-in-cheek). Dr Chant looks at doctrinal issues between various Christian groups.
The Nicene CreedWe believe in one God,
The Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth
and of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only begotten Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
light from light, true God from True God,
begotten not made,
of one substance with the Father.
By Him all things were made.
For us men and our salvation
He came down from heaven,
was made flesh from the Holy Spirit
and Mary the virgin and became man.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate,
suffered and was buried.
He rose again on the third day,
according to the Scriptures,
and ascended into heaven.
He sits on the right hand of the Father
and will come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead.
His Kingdom will never end;
And in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord and life-giver, who proceeds from the Father.
Together with the Father and the Son
He is worshiped and glorified.
He spoke through the prophets;
And in one holy catholic* and apostolic church.
We confess one baptism for the remission of sins.
We look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the age to come. AMEN
I pray you have found this article interesting and I would be pleased to read any comments you may have. However, my workload is such that I may not be able to respond to all mail. Address any comments to Graham Pockett.
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© Graham Pockett
Last Updated: Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
I agree with Graham
Posted by Eric Abrahamson at 12:29 AM