Recently, two dissenting readers sent comments that startled me. The first wanted to know if this was an Adventist site. And the second was disgusted with what I wrote. I get comments like the second one from time to time and I often try to start a dialogue with the person to see if we can’t find common ground. But this time all I could think about was the damage to the church, the body of Jesus Christ.
Isn’t it enough that we all worship the same Son of the Living God? Isn’t it enough that we give our lives over to Christ? Does it really matter that some believe in a Sabbath on Saturday and others Sunday? Or that some believe in faith only and others in faith and works? Or any other controversy evident in the followers of Jesus Christ today? Isn’t it the most important thing that we are following Jesus in the way we’ve been called? So why do we argue? Why do we have to have the “right” beliefs? And have everyone else be wrong?
Isn’t it a turn-off for non-Christians that we fight amongst ourselves and can’t or won’t get along? Isn’t it hypocritical that we condemn other Christians when our God and His Son are Love and Justice and Mercy? Isn’t the church of every shade of belief losing membership? Recently, I read that the Protestant churches in South Carolina, in the midst of the Bible Belt, lost 97 churches since 2011. And this is happening all over the country. In all denominations, Catholic and Protestant, Christianity is leeching members day by day, year by year. Churches are closing. We are losing our influence in our country’s daily life and in everything else.
As we ponder this declining influence, what do we make of it? What is God making of it? What is He asking of us in this current challenge? What is He calling us, members in the whole church of Jesus Christ, to do?
Here are the questions that come to me: Am I, is my church, loving to those who don’t agree with us? or am I, are we, like someone in my last church who said this in my hearing, “I love everyone, but I don’t have to like them!” Do we continue to hold onto our judgments about other people, other denominations? Do we project that we’re the good guys and they’re the bad? Do we insist that everyone else agree with us or else they’re not to be liked or honored as followers of Christ or that they are not going to heaven like we are? These are all defensive postures. Was Jesus ever defensive about anything? Didn’t He have the certainty of His faith and didn’t He always exhibit that to everyone?
Are we actually following Jesus in all this, Jesus who talked to women and Samaritans, unheard of in His time, and Romans and the outcasts of His society? Are we getting to know the back story on why a person is the way he or she is or do we rush to judgment? Where is our love of justice and mercy? Our care for the poor and needy which is stressed throughout the Bible, but emphasized in Jesus’s teachings? Are we more attuned to our American culture than to Christ? Are we more attuned to our church’s interpretations than to hearing what Christ is saying to each of us?
If we’re smug about our own beliefs, if we only feel comfortable with our own kind, then how are we living a Christ-directed life? Every human being is made in the image of God; are we treating everyone like they, too, belong in God’s family of man? Every shade of Christians—Evangelical, Pentecostal, Mainline, Catholic and all the rest—are made in the image of God.
It’s time for a close look at our beliefs and a lot of prayer asking Christ to help us come into conformity with His teachings. It’s time to put Him first and not our denomination and its beliefs. Was Jesus ever small-minded about other peoples? Didn’t He lift up the Good Samaritan whom the Jews of his time disdained and spend time with the marginalized and criticize the powerful of His day? Did He need to be a friend of the powerful? Or did He need to rule on earth? If we take a good hard look at our attachment to our ways which are highly influenced by the culture instead of promoting God’s ways, we might see the lack of connection to the Living God and His Son, even though we claim to be His followers.
His kingdom was not an earthly one with power exhibited over some people and only rewarding some others. He didn’t prefer the rich over the poor or the poor over the rich. His kingdom was not one of armies and battles and war. He brought peace, a peace that passes all understanding. His kingdom was/is one for everyone who would walk with Him. It was for everyone. When will we Christians act like Jesus?
The kingdom of God is actually here on this earth. We do not have to wait until we die to live in the kingdom. It is already among us, around us, and within us. It is our choice whether we will allow God to lead us to the life in His kingdom that awaits us there in this lifetime, to heal all that is within us that limits who we are, so that we can be doing His work here on earth and not waiting to get into heaven to really live.
Questions to ponder over the week: As a member of the church of Jesus Christ, is God calling me to reconcile with other Christians? Is He asking me to love my neighbors in His church no matter his/her beliefs? Is He calling me/my church to be love in this world to anyone we meet? Do I feel called to live in the kingdom of God here on this earth? Or am I waiting until I get to heaven?
Blessing of the week: May we be the people of God who embrace all Christians and then all the people of this world, for we were all made in God’s image. May we exhibit God’s love wherever we go, whatever we do. May we stand in this world for reconciliation, love, and forgiveness.
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I am collecting conversion stories. I am still not sure what the Lord’s intention is for collecting these, but if you would care to share yours, I would only use your initials to identify the author.
 Matthew 25:31 to the end, The Sheep and the Goats plus about 2000 verses throughout the Bible commanding us to help the poor and needy, the stranger in our midst.
 Genesis 1:27
 Philippians 4:7
 Luke 17:20-22, Mark 1:15, Matthew 3:2, 4:17