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