Building Walls or Tearing Them Down?

Yesterday I started the day with coffee at Dough Joe’s with friends Clint, Chris, Rodger, and Bob. Two of these men are Presbyterian pastors, one a retired self-proclaimed “PrebyMethodist”, and the other a pastor at the fast-growing Church on the Rock. In a way it’s an unlikely group … dunkers … sprinklers … premillinnialists …. amillinnialists … orthodox … unorthodox … old … young.

But it’s also a group tied together by a common love, Jesus Christ. A common commitment exists to follow His word.  And a common hope that one day we won’t be as concerned about our differences as we are about our likeness. Our common trust is demonstrated as we pray for one another. Our common mission serves to remove the spirit of competition and instead recognizes that we are all reaching different people … each one coming closer to Jesus Christ. A common failure exists, in that none of us are perfect or understand everything. It was an interesting meeting. I hope it happens again soon.

After a meeting like that, it strikes me that Christians can fall into the trap of broad generalizations about others … especially other Christians. And since I’m a part of the Church of Christ, I will use us as an example (but we are not alone in this practice). We get our feathers ruffled when people say things about us like: “They don’t believe in music” or “They think they’re the only ones going to heaven“. But we so often feel free to say about believers in other denominations: “They don’t believe in baptism” or “They just want to entertain people“. And when we say these things and others hear us, sometimes they assume that it is true. They perpetuate myths.

You know, Clint, Rodger, Chris, Bob, and I have some pretty significant differences of opinion on some really important subjects. And I’m sure that each one of us believes we have studied those opinions, we have arrived at the truth of those matters, and we wish that the others would embrace what we know to be true. But that’s not likely to happen. So what do we do at this point? Isolate ourselves from one another, robbing ourselves of the various gifts from God that we possess because we disagree? We’ve been doing this for years and all it amounts to is building walls to keep believers out of our kingdoms.

I wonder what would happen if we stopped keeping guard against everyone else and turned around to look within our own walls. Do you think we could find some ways that we have missed the mark? Do you think we could identify some imperfections among our own people? Do you think that we could notice some principles in Scripture that we have ignored while we were promoting other principles? And do we think that the things we have overlooked or ignored are less important than the things that other believers have missed (as we see it)? Do we believe that we have something to gain from association with Clint, Rodger, Chris & Bob … that they have something to teach us? On the day of judgment are we going to be asked for systematic theology or are we going to be asked about how we lived out the message we were given?

Good questions … and not so easy answers. Before I go I want to be sure to say that theology is important. We should live out our convictions. We should cling to all conclusions we believe came from the Bible. And we should give other believers the freedom to do so as well. After all, they are not less honest, more ignorant, or unconcerned just because they disagree with me.

An old familiar poem says:

There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it hardly behooves any of us
To talk about the rest of us.

When we reject other believers because they have arrived at different conclusions than we have, I believe that we can develop a prideful spirit. As a result, fellow brothers and sisters are rejected. This can’t be good.

And now for some trivia: Who wrote the above poem? An internet search revealed several potential writers:

Edward Wallis Hoch, Marion (Kansas) Record (1849 – 1925)

Cree-L Kofford

Robert Louis Stevenson

Edwin Markham

James Truslow Adams

And the most famous, Anonymous.

What do you think? (About the post … and the poem)

From the Least Likely To Have A Blog department: My friend Craig Hicks has created a blog. I want to ask all of you to drop by and leave a word of encouragement. Craig has a great gift and I think his blog can be used by God in a wonderful way.

I am a bit nauseated this morning as I think about the incredible destruction across the Yucatan Penisula wrought by Hurricane Dean. And it is not over. The storm will emerge, re-intensify, and strike Mexico yet again. I pray that the word was out and that people fled the area. At the strength and intensity of Hurricane Dean there will be massive losses. Dr. Jeff Masters paints a grim picture. I’m sure we will see many horrific images over the next few days. We need to pray for the people of Mexico.

Patrick Mead’s Prayer: Getting Real with God.

Big White Hat asks The Healing Question … excellent post.

Dusty Rush considers the value of silence.

Danny Dodd has some interesting thoughts about worship.

Thanks for reading,

JD

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