there's a difference between believing & "right belief"

difference between believing and right beliefone of the things i love the most about our little wild & crazy refuge community is we can hold the space for a lot of divergent views about the Bible & life & faith.  it’s not an easy task, i must say, and sometimes i get asked “so, just what does the refuge believe about _______.” (it’s usually not issues that are on this list, though, they are usually questions far, far more specific.)

this is a typical question of most every church.  and usually churches can answer it because there are a lot of clear-cut statements of faith or a creed or something floating around that somehow helps people “know” more clearly where everyone who identify themselves as part of it stands on particular beliefs.

i respect that these kinds of statements can be helpful to people. oh, they do make things easier!  but i have trouble with them, too.  people in our community have the freedom to believe lots of different things about God/Jesus/faith, and so i often respond “well, i am glad to tell you what i believe but i can’t speak for everyone else.” 

you might be cringing when you hear that.  what kind of leader are you, some might say?  and i’d say “i’m a leader who’s trying to trust God with the technicalities & do my best to lead people to consider & wrestle with & tangibly live out what i believe are the fundamentals.”   

Jesus didn’t seem too concerned with these kinds of “here’s exactly what you need to believe to follow me.”  rather, he was calling people into a way of participating in the kingdom of God in the here and now, challenging us to embrace humility & spiritual poverty in a world bent on knowledge & pride, encouraging us to follow his way of sacrifice and lay down our lives for others, feed the hungry, visit the sick, love the unlovely, and take the much harder path of practicing love instead of theologizing about love.  he also said this kind of faith was going to be much more difficult than knowledge.

we can passionately be believers, without getting caught up in the human-made trap of “right belief”.  they are different things.

i believe wholeheartedly in the power & beauty & wisdom of the Bible and that there are many different interpretations of it that matter deeply.

one thing that has helped me immensely on my faith journey over the past chunk of years is discovering how many incredible, diverse, smart, and amazing people see the Bible very differently from each other but somehow are heading toward the same God.  it’s been a mind & heart bender for sure, especially when i came from a pretty conservative faith persuasion for many years that seemed to throw “this is what the Bible for sure says” around a lot.

at this stage of my faith journey, i might not agree with some people’s interpretations of the Bible, but i deeply respect why and how they might see it a certain way.  i also remain deeply committed to not trying to convince someone to believe “my way” and like to hold the tension of disagreement on the technicalities.

the need to convince each other to see it the way we see it is what divides and separates us, splits churches, and creates all sorts of pain & hurt in the world.   as far as i can tell, Jesus never called us to do that.  believing in him must look like something else. maybe it looks like trusting the first & greatest commandment and keeping it in our hearts and bringing it everywhere we go–to love God & others.

one of the things we are trying to hold on to in the refuge community is that we can disagree on Bible verses but that we must, at all costs, respect our differences and treat each other with love and kindness.  to me, it’s a willingness to lay down “our way” and trust God to be God since we’re not.  it’s a gorgeous but challenging thing to witness because somehow it forces us all to look beyond our interpretation of particular passages and center in on the most important thing–love.   i can love my sisters and brothers who see the Bible differently, and i am so grateful that they love me even when they disagree with me, too.

i think that’s the task at hand for a more inclusive, diverse, and Jesus-centered church.

i don’t think people are supposed to water down their beliefs to adjust to others in either direction.  the tricky part is learning to hold a space for all of us, in all our differences.

there’s no question, it takes a lot of grace, courage, steadfastness & finesse to truly put relationship above doctrine and respect the difference between believing & “right belief.” 

and honestly, i think that’s what Jesus embodied.

it’s also a brutally difficult task in a world that clamors for uniformity & clarity on who’s in, who’s out, who believes this and who believes that, who thinks this is wrong and who thinks this is right.  often, both the left and the right are just as passionate about these dividing lines.

i’ve been thinking about this a lot lately & it reminds me of how much easier it is to build a church than cultivate community.  yeah, it’s easier to divide and separate based on Bible beliefs instead of learning to live together in the tension of seeing it differently but remaining united in love.

God, show us how to live in the beautiful, trusting tension of disagreeing on all kinds of things but agreeing on love & respect not just in theory or from afar, but up-close- and-personal in real community together. 

* * * * *

ps:  i had already written this post when i saw this recycle your faith video this morning–it’s called the final apologetic. i don’t agree with every point in it but i think it fleshes some of this same thought out, too.

ppss:  here’s a post i wrote this week for the refuge blog about walking wounded: hope for those hurt by church, a gathering we’re hosting october 21st & 22nd in denver–it’s called stopping for the wounded. 

 

 

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

27 Comments

  • Kathy,

    This concept was probably one of the hardest things to get as I have moved away from many of the traditional ideas I was raised with. For me it has come in stages, mostly initiated by God bringing someone new into my life who challenges some long held belief or idea. At first I was willing to let others believe something I felt was wrong, but I felt a compulsion to try to convince them that they were, in fact, wrong. As I became more comfortable with others ideas, I have been able to let go a little more. I know I am still far from getting this completely, but I have come to embrace homosexual Christians, women pastors, and a lot of other things that I once thought I had the “right beliefs” about.

    I guess for now in my life, I am just focusing on trying to be as accurate a reflection of God’s character, at least as much as I understand it, as I can be. I feel that if I reflect God’s character in my words and actions, I will inevitably cause those around me to want to get to know more about this God. This I feel is true evangelism, not having all the right answers or interpretations or beliefs, but making others want to know more about my God, not chasing them away from Him.

    Your Brother In Christ,
    Pastor FedEx

    Reply
    • thanks fedex for sharing & i really believe that i have been a much better evangelist since i started letting go of trying to convince people of stuff. i look back on some conversations i had with people over the years and the nuttiness that i felt compelled to defend on behalf of God and i know that it didn’t do even a sliver of good; in fact, it made people feel judged and demeaned and less likely to be drawn in. i agree with you, i think that the image of God reflected in people is very compelling and doesn’t require a well constructed theological argument.

      Reply
  • Hi Kathy,

    I have always admired your compassion and pray that God will give me more of it!

    But “relationship over doctrine?” Hmmm… depends on what doctrine you’re talking about. Depends on what truth you’re talking about. There certainly are non-essentials we can disagree about. But where do we get God’s compassionate character if not from the teaching we get from the Bible, which is in effect, doctrine. That body of truth is how we know who Jesus is and what he means to us.

    It sounds like you don’t want to let doctrine stand in the way of reaching out to the hurting, wounded, needy, lonely. But it’s that ‘doctrine’ (i.e. teaching about who God is, who his Son is, etc.) that gives you the very reason to do so.

    At what point will you stand up for the basis for your compassion? For the very truth from the very Son of God who gives that compassion meaning in the first place? Without a certain amount or form of ‘doctrine,’ we have no reason to care.

    Your partner in grappling with the issues,

    Phil

    Reply
    • Phil,

      I think that doctrine is important, but I also believe that we can spend an entire lifetime just trying to get our own doctrine correct. I can’t speak for Kathy, but I believe that if I focus on living out what I understand about God and not going around trying to change others they are more likely to come to me and ask me about my God.

      Not sure this is exactly what Jesus did, but it seems that He lived out God’s character, loved everyone, spoke His doctrine when He had the opportunity, and answered questions when asked. I do not see him going around trying to correct the doctrine of the prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners. He lived his life as an open invitation to draw closer to God, and I desire to live my life in the same manner.

      FedEx

      Reply
      • FedEx,

        It’s certainly important to live out what you understand about God. We all need to do that. But we also need to understand that what we understand about God has to come from somewhere, and if we de-emphasize the basis for that understanding, the whole building comes crashing down.

        If you don’t see Jesus correcting people’s ‘doctrine,’ look again. Jesus constantly told the Pharisees that they were wrong because they knew neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. He told the woman at the well that the day would come when people would worship God in spirit and in truth. The corrected her ‘theology,’ her ‘doctrine,’ her understanding of God, whatever you want to call it, and that formed the basis for building his kingdom in her heart, eventually resulting in her healing and restoration. He corrected the misconceptions that Nicodemus had about the Kingdom of God, where they were blocking his ability to embrace it. There are countless examples of Jesus correcting people’s misconceptions and wrong theology as he was engaged in his compassionate healing ministry. People asked him who sinned that a man was born blind. He said it wasn’t anyone’s sin, but the chance to bring glory to God. He corrected their doctrine.

        Jesus’ entire basis for ministry was God’s revelation through himself and through the Scriptures simultaneously, and we get our understanding of that revelation through the framework of scripture-based doctrine. It’s the body of teaching that makes sense of our desire to be compassionate and to promote caring, healing, and justice in the world. Without it, we are just making noise and aren’t truly promoting God’s kingdom with all the wonderful things it brings.

        Hope this helps.

        Phil

        Reply
        • By the way, when Jesus spoke to the multitudes, he had compassion on them and corrected their doctrine at the same time. Every time he said “you have heard it said…, but I say to you…” he was correcting their doctrine, and he was speaking to tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes, and everyone else.

          It’s not healthy to spend a lifetime learning docrtine and never putting the things of God in to practice to help people, heal people, and meet their needs in Jesus’ name. But we can’t emphasize one over the other. They are EQUALLY IMPORTANT, and there are times when we have to defend the truth of what the Bible teaches and what Christ taught (the same thing), even if it means causing discomfort in our relationships.

          Jesus said he did not come to bring peace, but a sword; that he would cause division between family members, and that if anyone loved (fill in the blank) more than him, they were not worthy of him. Loving him means taking him at his word and respecting his authority when he said “truly I say to you…” just as much as giving a cup of cold water to the least of these.

          Hard stuff, I know.

          Reply
        • Phil,

          Again, I do agree that understanding the truth about God’d person and plan is very important. I believe that getting doctrine correct is important, and we should carefully study and search the scripture and seek to learn as much about God as we can. I also feel that we need to share what we believe with others when we feel led to do so and that we are told to be ready to give answer to those who ask us about our hope. I agree with all these things, but a few things come to mind here.

          First, Jesus had perfect understanding of God and therefore perfect doctrine. When Jesus corrected someone else’s doctrine he did it from the standpoint of knowing he was completely right. The problem is that none of us has this. We have the bible, but there are a lot of different opinions of who understands it correctly. It would be the height of arrogance to think that we could ever have a perfect understanding of God or any part of His Word.

          Second, I do not even see Jesus destroying relationships, even in the name of correct doctrine, and as we discussed earlier, if anyone had a right to it was Him. He did address the doctrine of the pharasees and of the woman at the well, and others, but he always did so in a way that invited them to a relationship with God through Him. Through this they would begin to gain a more correct understanding of God and thereby a more correct doctrine.

          Lastly, Jesus told His disciples that they would be known by their love for one another. He even says that their unity would be the proof that they were living out Christ’s teaching. He did not say that they would be known for their correct doctrine, or their ability to agree with each other about all doctrine, or anything like that. He says it is love and unity that characterize His true followers.

          So since I cannot have perfect doctrine or understanding, and since Jesus said love and unity are the most important things, then I will work on my own understanding of God, and not go around judging or trying to change those things that I disagree with in others.

          FedEx,
          Pastor,
          Set Free Ministries,
          President,
          Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry

          Reply
    • I’m thinking about this little story from Luke 10:

      25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

      26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

      27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

      In my experience, every person I have known who has focused on putting doctrine first has cherry-picked which doctrines and whose understanding of those doctrines to place first.

      Unfortunately, none of them, in the way they lived, taught and treated people appeared to be aware of this story from Jesus’ teaching. Their emphasis was having correct doctrine and “correcting” those who they decided did not. Somehow, the “doctrine” of loving their neighbor as themselves got left off the list, when it should have been at the top of the list, right after the loving God part.

      So – Would not relationship – with God and other people – supersede all else?

      Reply
      • Sam,

        I’ve seen that happen as well. It’s a shame when it does. But the fact that some people go about putting an emphasis on doctrine in the wrong way doesn’t really mean anything. All it says is that some people do it in the wrong way. Some people might be selective about which doctrines they focus on, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important to defend the truth as we are commanded. There are people who are terrible drivers. I see it every day. But I don’t conclude from that that driving is evil. I simply know that they aren’t doing it very well and they could get someone hurt. The answer is not to vilify driving, but to do it with skill and understanding.

        For my part, I have never advocated “doctrine first” as you put it. That’s a mischaracterization. I pointed out that they are “equally important” if you refer to the above comments I made. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I for one don’t advocate putting doctrine above relationship or love. They shouldn’t be separated and put in to compartments as though they are mutually opposing categories. We love in truth. We “speak the truth in love.” If we are helping people understand the things of God more accurately in order to strengthen their faith, we do it in love, gentleness, and respect. It’s often helpful to simply love first, and teach later. But that’s not relationship superseding doctrine, it’s the two working together.

        If we want a model for evangelism, we don’t have to go far. Just read the book of Acts. Acts 17:2+ reads “2 As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,’ he said.” Paul not only did this on these three occasions, but it was “his custom.” Acts 18:4, “Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.” It wasn’t just Paul. Acts 18:27+, “When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.” Were they overemphasizing doctrine, truth, evidence? These are not isolated occurrences. None of the other Apostles ever opposed this approach. In fact, all indications are that they supported it and practiced it themselves. There were even times when Jesus himself appeared to Paul and encouraged him in the methodology he had adopted. Far from scolding Paul for teaching and being strongly persuasive with his reasoning, evidence, and proofs, Jesus told him to keep speaking just like he had been.

        If the modern church saw how the Apostles went about evangelizing, it would be appalled, and would criticize them for being cold and having a neurotic need to be “right.” But they taught people who Jesus was and offered them evidence that what they were claiming was true. Why would they do this? Isn’t it arrogant to think you have “the truth” and you can go around imposing it on others? Won’t that turn people off??? Sometimes we need to be reminded of what Jesus said: “you will KNOW THE TRUTH and the truth will set you free.” But they also loved people and were involved in compassionate ministry, healing the sick, feeding the hungry. They didn’t have the false dichotomy about doctrine and relationship/compassion like we mistakenly do in the 21st Century. It’s an integrated model where nothing is out of balance, and we should follow it boldly.

        Offering these ideas as food for thought.

        Humbly,

        Phil

        Reply
      • somehow i missed replying to this, sam…sorry! i an thankful for your heart and example!

        Reply
    • thanks, phil, i appreciate you reading and wrestling with this. i apologize for not responding sooner, i have had a really nutty week and am just now getting on here. we are probably going to see this a bit differently, and that’s so okay. i probably should have changed one thing in how i wrote this and that would have said “relationship over agreeing on doctrine…” the way you intersect with Jesus and interpret the scriptures can be totally different with someone else. is your version 100% right and there’s is wrong? that’s my point. the world is very big and God is big. my trouble with trying to convince people of technicalities is that it comes with a certainty that one side is “right”. we usually will go with the ways we have been taught in church, seminary, etc. and assume that puts us on the “we’ve got it right” list. i will hold that the world is not crying out for right theology. the world is crying out for hope. i believe as followers of Jesus our role should be to reflect Hope instead of spending time telling people what they should hope.

      Reply
      • Hi Kathy,

        No need to apologize. 🙂 I saw you Friday night, by the way, but you must not have stayed long. When I tried to make my way over to say Hi to you and Jose, you were no where to be found. I was kind of bummed. I wasn’t quick enough.

        I think the adjustment you suggested is probably a wise one and a good call.

        The core problem I see is a trend in today’s church that considers theology, truth, and doctrine as dirty words. They see so many people involved in petty arguments about unimportant issues (i.e. the “non-essentials”) that they view all discussions concerning theology or doctrine as one monstrous irrelevant waste of time. They see people trying to be “right” and react with contempt toward those people, those attitudes, that pettiness, and conclude that theology and doctrine in general are just ways of missing the point of what Christ came to do.

        I don’t blame them. You’re right: trying to convince people of “technicalities” can lead us astray. And it can turn seekers away, making them not want to have anything to do with Christianity.

        But the problem is, what are the technicalities? If people have different interpretations of the Bible and Christ’s teachings, does that mean that no interpretation is any better or worse than any other? What if my interpretation of the Bible says that Christ is just another ordinary man and not the divine Son of God? What if someone’s interpretation is that Christ didn’t rise from the dead, or that he didn’t die for our sins? Are those interpretations just as good as their opposing interpretations? If all we have is our own subjective interpretations, can we really know any truth at all? How could we if no interpretation is any better or any more accurate than any other?

        I see the present day church plagued with a mentality that holds theology and doctrine in contempt, or minimizes its importance when stood up next to compassion, caring, helping, healing, and “giving hope.” You may be right: the world is crying out for hope and supposedly not for “right theology.” But since when did Christ tell us to give the world what they are crying out for? He told us to give the world the truth. The truth about who he is and what he means to mankind as its only hope. That requires us to understand that truth accurately, though not completely. Without that truth, there is no hope. Understanding that truth as accurately as possible is called Theology. And understand this: we can’t afford to get the essentials wrong, because all the compassion, help, caring, and “hope” in the world are meaningless if we don’t know what those things are grounded in.

        We can disagree about infant baptism, speaking in tongues, the nature of the spiritual gifts, church government, tithing, and so on. Those are the technicalities, the “non-essentials.” And if we squabble about those as though we have the only right interpretation about these non-essentials, we’re gonna choke and die. But when it comes to the essentials about who Jesus is, who God is, certain core ideas about who we are, the fact that Jesus died for our sins, rose from the dead, and is the only begotten Son of God, we can’t afford to get those wrong. If those things are just a matter of our own personal interpretations, none of which are any better than any other, we’re lost, and we have no right to presume to be giving the world anything of value, much less hope.

        But I see the church trying to do just that: give the world hope without being grounded in what the Bible calls “sound doctrine.” 2 Timothy 4:3 says “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” Titus 1:9 says an elder “must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” Notice he says “encourage” (very close to “give hope to”) others by sound doctrine (truth). Hope comes from the knowledge of the truth. Truth comes from the teaching of Christ. I’m not making this up. The attitude that says, “well, we all have different interpretations about the Bible and Jesus. Can’t we all just get along?” is arrested by Titus 1:9 as immature nonsense. Paul has the bold audacity to suggest that there are times when we need to refute those who oppose sound doctrine. How arrogant. How unpopular. What a primitive obsession with being “right.” Disgusting.

        Here’s the rub: anyone from any religion can claim to offer hope. Buddhists can be compassionate, as can Hindus, Hare Krishnas, and New Agers. What makes us any different from those competing religions? There are untold numbers of Christians who are unconcerned about theology and doctrine, and who just want so badly to offer people hope, that they have come to the conclusion that Christianity is just another in a long list of valid options, and that since Buddhism seems to offer a lot of people hope, that must be OK. They believe that to say that following Buddha will end in death and following Christ will end in life and hope would be arrogant and would reflect that neurotic need to be “right” that we all despise so deeply.

        Jesus said he was the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through him. He said you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. He said make disciples from all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them what he commanded us. We need to understand the truth Jesus taught us. We need to teach it to the world in an attitude of love and respect. We need to humbly care for the hurting and love each other at the same time. Those two agendas are equally vital. The mentality that puts hope over theology, compassion over doctrine, or any other way you want to express it, is not biblical. It throws out of balance what Jesus weighed evenly. It comes from the postmodern influence in our culture that says there is no truth. Jesus would disagree.

        Peace,

        Phil

        Reply
  • Reepicheep, sometimes I really hate that I can’t win an “argument” with you, but other times I love it that I can’t really win an “argument” with you?!?!
    😉 Oh, wait, that’s right…you’re in my community! ha! I little tension between two women could never get THAT bad, right?!?

    Reply
  • The way I see it, the saddest trap in “right belief” is the notion that we must save ourselves by our own thoughts, save others by imposing our own thoughts on them, so that they think like we do and be saved. That does not seem to place much trust in God, or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, or the paradoxical wisdom of Christ. It seems like a gross over-simplification based upon fear and tribalism.
    Protestants never did solve the problem of the authority of the Pope in the last reformation 500 years ago. We just transferred it to the Bible. I don’t think we honor the Bible by making it into a paper Pope. The Word of God is infinitely bigger than that.
    I think that brother Paul was trying to help us out (along the lines that Kathy is describing) when he wrote this-

    “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

    For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

    Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

    And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.”
    KJV

    I love that he launches straight into salvation- when you live for love in this way (not naive but focused and wise) you bring the salvation of the kingdom into this place. Not a random turn of phrase, I think.

    Reply
    • thanks, sage. i love this line: “That does not seem to place much trust in God, or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, or the paradoxical wisdom of Christ.”

      Reply
  • Wow. I have been there and followed that party line. Even now, I find myself afraid of ‘being in trouble’ and ‘corrected’ if I don’t agree with the people around me. And they aren’t doing that to me. It is a lifetime of living under the heavy hand of the system that makes me skittish still. I am learning to extend a lot more grace – and that is a daily work in progress. But I haven’t yet learned to expect any. Sigh.

    Reply
    • thanks, katherine. yeah, that is a very pervasive feeling for so many–the idea that somehow we might not be “right” and what that means. i always say “grace is compelling….and often very scarce.” i think it’s so interesting that a God that is about freedom has a whole lot of followers who are just the opposite of free.

      Reply
  • FedEx, (Interesting name! ;-))

    I can’t press the button to reply to your post for some reason, but you make excellent points. Thanks for your input and insight.

    I would only comment on the idea of not having perfect understanding of God’s truth, and considering it arrogance to think that we could. We certainly don’t have God’s intellect and wisdom, but what do we do with the fact that we don’t have perfect understanding? Do we keep quiet about anything that resembles doctrine because we don’t have a perfect understanding of it? Jesus said to his disciples “if they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” Should the disciples have resisted the authority Jesus gave them and refuse to teach and prove Jesus was the Christ (like he commanded them to) with the excuse that they don’t have a perfect understanding of God’s truth? Apparently we don’t need a perfect understanding of God’s truth to teach it to others, since he commanded us to go into all the world making disciples of all nations, TEACHING THEM WHAT HE TAUGHT US. That’s his solemn command to us. Of course we need to do it in love, and of course we need to have unity. But that doesn’t negate the importance of what we are to teach others.

    You said a lot about unity and love being the proof that they are his disciples. All those things are extremely important. But notice that all you said about the unity and love of the disciples being their trademark in the world is one more example of doctrine that you pointed out that we don’t have a perfect understanding of. If we don’t have a perfect understanding of God’s truth, we don’t have a perfect understanding of the doctrine you just mentioned, but you state it with boldness and confidence as though there was sufficient understanding of it to do so. Why is that doctrine such a powerful base to stand on if we don’t have a perfect understanding of God’s truth, and it would be arrogance to think we do? You seem to have a pretty clear understanding of those wonderful ideas about the unity and love of the disciples. You state it boldly and eloquently. And you should. We all should.

    Finally, that Jesus corrected people’s doctrine with love and with the invitation to a relationship with God through him is exactly my point. And we can and should do the same. We teach the truth in love so that people can find forgiveness and salvation through Christ. That’s what he has told us to do. We can’t shirk his command to us to teach others what he has taught us just because we are finite and don’t have a perfect understanding of his truth. He never seemed to be concerned about that when he told us to do it.

    FedEx, I love your heart and your wisdom. I’m glad you are involved in the life-changing work of the Kingdom.

    Phil

    Reply
  • Hi Phil,
    I think the main difference is whether we insist upon “right belief” (making sure others think the way we think it) as a first sorting for being in relationship. We have all been touched by Jesus Christus, and the power of that gives us confidence to want to live that and proclaim that! But our understandings are weak and finite- I think that this paradox is what FedEx is talking about. So are we to shrink back because of our partial understanding? In terms of our own egotistical attachments to our rightness, yes- lest we become like the Pharasees. Jesus constantly invites us into humility for the sake of the kingdom, for the sake of relationship. Because of our partial understanding, should we shrink from our faith in God and what that means and what that does, No! We have every confidence in that.
    I find it very interesting to note that the phrase “truth in love” has a context that is not at all about bludgeoning others with our self-righteous ideas of what they are doing wrong (not saying that you are), but rather it is a call to relational maturity that is exactly in line with our topic at hand!
    Peace to you brother

    “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

    14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”

    Reply
    • thanks amber, that always helps to hear! yeah, different things to worry about down here, aren’t there?

      Reply
  • THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I’ve been feeling this way for a while now, and trying to put it into words, and mostly getting blank stares for my efforts. Now, bit by bit, I’m finding that there are other who feel as I do. I call myself a “Cafeteria Christian,” and I mean it as a positive thing. I can accept that I believe different things from those who sit next to me on a couch in my Bible study. I just find it hard to accept those who try so hard to present their own homogenized Christianity to the world, especially when they’re so LOUD!

    Reply
    • thanks, carrie, i am glad that these words resonated. i do love that we can sit next to each other, learning & loving together, and accept our differences. that’s pretty!

      Reply
  • hey phil, sage, and fedex, i appreciated the very kind and respectful dialogue you all carried on here. thank you!

    Reply

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