Stop Throwing Out the Baby with the Bathwater!

We, as Christians can glean so much from other churches and ministries and their teachings, when we put aside our differences. Even Paul said in his letters to Corinth that we know in part and we prophesy in part. Can you imagine if we could put all discrepancies in doctrine aside and follow the pattern of Jesus Christ? His perfect love as a guideline would create amazing gatherings. Think how much greater our knowledge and understanding would grow if we could walk in His perfect love and not cast aspersions at other ministries, denominations, or religions, but appreciate them for what they contribute to God and others. To have the ability to not point fingers would be to ‘write in the sand’ as Jesus did and say to former adversaries, ‘Where are your accusers?’ Instead of drawing attention to the areas where we don’t agree, we should find common ground. Here are a few examples of simple doctrinal beliefs that overlap for some:

    The mission of The United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
    Baptists believe in the Virgin birth, that Christ died for sinners, and in the resurrection.
    The Church of Christ believes that the Bible is the infallible Word of God.
    Lutherans believe that people are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
    Catholics believe in a Spirit-guided revelation of scripture.
    Many non-denominational and/or pentecostal churches believe in divine and miraculous healing.
    Mennonites believe that as followers of Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they should spread grace, joy, and peace to the world.

All of these are examples of ideas formed out of perfect love and without that love, they are but clashing cymbals. When a nonbeliever hears arguing, it is pure noise. How can a person get excited about a church that doesn’t show love? If there’s constantly bickering, name-calling, and back-stabbing of other religions or leaders, or amongst members, then what would entice them to come in? Can we stop throwing out the baby with the bathwater by trashing others?! Let’s practice the same love we do to our family and friends and keep the baby too.

 

Love never stops loving. It extends beyond the gift of prophecy, which eventually fades away. It is more enduring than tongues, which will one day fall silent. Love remains long after words of knowledge are forgotten. Our present knowledge and our prophecies are but partial, but when love’s perfection arrives, the partial will fade away. When I was a child, I spoke about childish matters, for I saw things like a child and reasoned like a child. But the day came when I matured, and I set aside my childish ways. For now we see but a faint reflection of riddles and mysteries as though reflected in a mirror, but one day we will see face-to-face. My understanding is incomplete now, but one day I will understand everything, just as everything about me has been fully understood. Until then, there are three things that remain: faith, hope, and love—yet love surpasses them all. So above all else, let love be the beautiful prize for which you run. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13

If we could meet in the unity of faith, there wouldn’t be quarrels over doctrine or whose church is correct, instead we would save our energy to praise God and love each other. We would love like Jesus. We would no longer have a veil that restricts our understanding or our perception of others. We would see and still love ‘warts and all.’ We must focus on love and hold tightly to it and offer it to all those we meet and the Holy Spirit can work through us to heal wounded hearts. Now, can you imagine what a celebration it will be, when we truly see like Jesus does, when he looks beyond perceived shortcomings? I think David gives us a glimpse in his last Psalm…

 

Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heaven! Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness! Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn; praise him with the lyre and harp! Praise him with the tambourine and dancing; praise him with strings and flutes! Praise him with a clash of cymbals; praise him with loud clanging cymbals. Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord! Praise the Lord! -Psalm 150:1-6

And while we’re basking in His presence and bathing, it might be a good time to follow Jesus’ example and have some humble pie by washing the feet of other ministers. Some of that ‘holy water’ might feel good to both the giver and recipients. Wash clean those who are already clean to refresh and renew. We should know his teaching and follow his example in order to live a life of blessings to others. Then we won’t be throwing out the baby in the manger, in the adjacent pulpits, or in our own congregations. We are all babies until we come to full maturity. I don’t know anyone who has become mature, only those who boast of their own knowledge or superiority, which in itself is immature. And if we are casting aspersions and not walking in love, we are not following Jesus’ example and throwing out him and his reason for coming to earth.

Jesus said to him, “You are already clean. You’ve been washed completely and you just need your feet to be cleansed—but that can’t be said of all of you.” For Jesus knew which one was about to betray him, and that’s why he told them that not all of them were clean. After washing their feet, he put his robe on and returned to his place at the table. “Do you understand what I just did?” Jesus said. “You’ve called me your teacher and lord, and you’re right, for that’s who I am. So if I’m your teacher and lord and have just washed your dirty feet, then you should follow the example that I’ve set for you and wash one another’s dirty feet. Now do for each other what I have just done for you. I speak to you timeless truth: a servant is not superior to his master, and an apostle is never greater than the one who sent him. So now put into practice what I have done for you, and you will experience a life of happiness enriched with untold blessings!”

John 13:10-14,16-17

The Light of Godliness

How much do we truly identify with our new nature as Christians vs the natural conditions we face on this Earth? Jesus said we would face trials and tribulations. There’s no getting around them, but do we identify with them more than we identify with who we are in Christ? Do we allow them to be our excuse or our cop-out for bad behavior when we should use restraint or allow the Holy Spirit to guide us into better behavior?

John 16:33 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Matthew 5:47-48 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Downstream

Jesus is our best example of how to treat others, think of him when he was being beaten and scourged, he didn’t lash out. Not that we should take illness as our lot, we shouldn’t, because he paid the price for us, but while we are enduring, we should remain humble. He is our refuge and healer.

I know Christians who face serious illnesses with Grace and mercy. If you were to meet them for the first time, you would never know how ill they are. I’ve even known friends who were dying of cancer and never uttered a word to others about their condition, except when they were in horrific pain. Otherwise, they kept a cheerful attitude facing the world with dignity and never complained. Then I’ve known others who cry over the smallest paper cut as if they needed great attention and care, leading others to think they were the ones dying with their dramatization. And some who scream or are short fused with their family when they feel the slightest twinges of problems, or scream at them when they did nothing wrong. Who in these instances are allowing the light of godliness to shine through?

2 Peter 1:5-9 In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins.

I’m not saying we should hide our feelings, but we shouldn’t use our conditions for ill behavior. For instance, if you’ve had a bad day at work or driving home in traffic, do you take it out on your family when you get home? That isn’t godliness. It’s allowing your circumstances to control your outlook and ruin other people’s days, when they weren’t the cause of your situation. If you feel ill, should you snap at those around you? Should you bark orders and expect others to wait on you hand and foot? No, and they shouldn’t feel obligated to do so either. They may feel sorry for your condition, but it isn’t their fault that you have the medical or emotional condition you have. I’ve known families that cater to one person with an illness because they play a guilt trip on others for their lot in life, making everyone in the family wait on them hand and foot. By the same token, I’ve known family members who ignore family members who seem to have one illness or problem after another. Neither attitude is right. There should be a balance; a give and take. The one who seems to keep having medical issues certainly never asked for them and needs understanding and compassion. They need acknowledgement from their family, not a ‘sweep it under the rug’ as if it doesn’t exist. Certainly, we have a hope that any illness or calamity will be healed by the blood of Jesus, but in the meantime, show them you care without making their condition a reason for them to act out. Obviously, some conditions may limit them from physical abilities they’ve had before, but it shouldn’t limit the one suffering the ability to show kindness, mercy, and grace. In fact, if anything, it should do the opposite and make them more compassionate and tenderhearted towards others. Sadly, that isn’t always the case and many lash out in anger.

James 1:26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.

When I see this in Christian brothers and sisters I want to say, “Get over yourself! Who is your source?! What are you drawing on? What makes you entitled to special favors and treating others poorly?!” I’m not saying I’ve never been grouchy when I feel ill, I have and normally I catch it and apologize quickly to anyone I’ve said any harsh words to, but I don’t live there. I’m talking about people who live in that state and wear it like a badge. You are not defined by whatever “fill in the blank” condition you have, you are defined by God and who he created you to be! You are his righteousness and his holy ones, act like it and treat others how you want to be treated. You are not this disease, this condition, this illness, this whatever. You were created in the image of God…. Think about that… Created in the Image of God…

Ultimately, if we are Christians, we will grow and have the fruit of the Spirit, which does not burden others or put upon them or put forth angry words or speak harshly. What are the fruits of the Spirit?

Galatians 5:22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.

The Greatest Love

What is the greatest love? It is Jesus’ death on the cross and his willingness to give up his life so that we might live more abundantly. He didn’t want us to go on in the same life we’d been living.

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. -Jesus John 13:34

Ephesians 5:25-33 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body. As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

If we follow his humble example… let’s think of how that scenario plays out. If we are to live like he lived and love like he loved, that’s a tall order! Think how he didn’t condemn sinners – (the woman at the well, the woman the people wanted to stone, and others) but he didn’t party with them or hang out, he was working, living set apart*, he was there to deliver, to minister, not to participate, much like a physician administers a cure, Jesus did the same.  He had the cure, the purest love, with no conditions, except that the person turn from sin. Even when they don’t, he still loves them and is there for them/us when they/we do. Yet he does condemn sin. Jesus doesn’t look down on the ‘scourge’ of the earth, as some might call the unfortunate or the lowliest people, he forgave their sins, and he healed them. He looked beyond their frailties and saw their potential. He looks beyond our faults and sees us as he created us, in his perfect image.

His image covers our faults, our sins, our shortcomings, our inabilities to do things the way others want, our inability to love deeply or to show love freely to others. He sees himself instead of us, because he sees us covered by his blood, not the way we look without his transformative power. That’s what his blood will do, it will wash away all our impurities. It’s good for us to remember that his blood washes our lives clean and makes us look as pure as he is. He loves all of us – the church. Have you thought of how unkempt the church is? Have you looked around and seen the mess many are in and how needy? They were during Jesus’ time also, just different people and different circumstances. So don’t think he has given us an impossible task, because with God all things are possible. He wouldn’t give us anything he couldn’t do. But in our human selves, apart from God, most of us fall short, and we must go back to his reminder, to love each other as he has loved us, with his greatest love. We must Allow the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts, our words, and our actions towards others, then we may also show the greatest love. But it is only by submitting weekly, daily, and hourly to the Holy Spirt and let him be in in control of our thoughts and attitude to share the greatest life and love.

 

*set apart: He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven. – Hebrews 7:26