When I was very young I thought that Christians were Christians. I thought we were all on the same side. Then as a grew a little older I realized that there were different denominations and a little later I realized there were even different kinds of Christians, called “liberal Christians.” Then at some point later on I realized there were even more conservative Christians than myself at the time. These conservative Christians got it almost as wrong as the liberal Christians, they believed the King James Bible was the only true Bible and that dancing was wrong.
Then I got to college and realized that not only were there hyper-conservative Christians, and liberal Christians, but there were also people in the middle who were weak minded and couldn’t stand for anything (I would later join their ranks), and even further there were Christian: Pre, Post & A-Millennialists, Preterists, Futurists, Pacifists, Complementarians, Egalitarians, Calvinists, Arminists, Open Theists, Dispensationalists, and on and on and on. Even within some of those beliefs Christians break down further over the fine points.
What is my point here? The spectrum of Christianity is not simple or short, the spectrum of Christianity is a mile long and you only occupy an centimeter of it. Your best friends, your family, your pastor, you can find some theological issue in which you disagree. Beyond that, Christians differ on how we should respond to modern day cultural issues in light of scripture. Look at our responses to homosexuality, wealth, immigration, etc.
If you begin judging who is worthy of your fellowship based on minor issues, before long, you’ll develop your very own sect of Christianity that’s made in your image, and you’ll be very lonely.
Please understand me. I’m not calling on us to form one large body and meet together in a stadium every Sunday. We have some significant differences.
Is there a point at which someone moves so far to one end of the spectrum that they fall off? Yes! When we start denying core Christian dogma. For instance, if you deny that Christ died on a cross and was resurrected, then I have to ask what it is that makes you a Christian.
I don’t think we even have to permanently serve alongside others with whom we differ greatly with on secondary issues. Paul and Barnabus serve as our examples. Acts 15 tells us how Paul and Barnabus have a “sharp” disagreement about whether or not Mark should join them. I love this passage for what it says, and also for what it doesn’t say. It reads like a police report, just the facts, no he said, she said, no gossip about how Barnabus or Paul got it wrong, and therefor isn’t a true believer or even any less of minister of the Gospel.
But I see a lot of people trying to take Christianity away from others, simply because they don’t occupy the same centimeter of theological real estate as they do. It’s a dangerous thing -judging another mans servant.
When I was in college I started listening to a certain preacher online. His ability to preach and teach was beyond anything I had heard before. I felt God speaking through his sermons. At some point I began to realize something, this pastor was a _________ (insert secondary theological position. I won’t say what because it would start a debate about the theology itself, and only distract from the focus of this post). Honestly, I was kind of crushed. I stopped listening to his sermons. Whenever someone brought him up I would roll my eyes and criticize him internally. Moreover, I started grouping all believers into their secondary theologies, but what I was really doing was saying “This person is a good guy, this person isn’t.”
The problem was, I would often meet other believers, and I would like them, a lot. Then I would find out that they were on the other side of an issue, and I began to realize, I can’t break fellowship with everyone just because they don’t occupy the same centimeter as I do. My walk was going to be very lonely if I did that, and it wasn’t consistent with Jesus’ example, spending most of his time with people who by all accounts had some messed up thoughts about who Jesus was suppose to be. I also realized that some of the greatest wounds I had received inside the church were from others treating me as less of a Christ follower, because of some of my beliefs.
This realization was freeing. I could now listen to and read people who didn’t think just like me, and could sit and have fellowship over a cup of coffee with friends who were ______. I no longer have to limit God and dictate to him the ways in which he’s allowed to speak to me.
Have you gone through this? Have you had someone write you off because you don’t stand in the exact same space? What do you think this is doing to Christianity?