An aquaintance stopped by the other day with five books for me and five cupcakes for the kids. The books, all of them, outlined the doctrine of her particular denomination. The cupcakes were vanilla with chocolate frosting and sprinkles.
This acquaintance could easily be a friend because our lives have much in common but she has erected a wall of doctrine between us and there is distance instead. I will not be completely acceptable in her eyes unless I accept her take on Christianity. This is sad. I could use a friend and so could she.
This topic sits atop a great slippery slope and I tred lightly less I lose my footing and tumble to the bottom and end face down in the mud. (Colin says, "Mama, this sure isn't a scribble about something small.")
The apostle Paul lived at a time when the Jews and the Gentiles were forming one church out of many backgrounds. Division came more readily than unity. Believers in Christ were also believers in circumcision...or not. They ate food deemed clean...or they didn't. They fought over who was right. Who was guardian of the Truth. Paul spoke to all of these things but he kept the main thing the main thing in every letter that he wrote. Christ crucified and risen is the way to heaven.
We do the same today. We fight over music. Hymns or worship songs. Organ or drums or no instruments at all. Long hair or short. Dresses or pants. Communion weekly or monthly. Do our beliefs cause pride? Do they cause us to make comparisons against our fellow man where we look good every time and our fellow man looks like a loser? Or do our beliefs cause us to look to Christ...where He looks great and we see we have a long way to go to measure up...where we overflow with gratitude for His love?
There is nothing to be gained when Christians try to brow beat one another into becoming cookie cutter images. Great gain comes when iron sharpens iron. When we pray for one another. (Hands raised...or not) When we share what we are learning from the Word. (NIV, NKJV, ESV...) When we encourage one another with stories of how God has stepped in and worked for good in our lives. This is common ground and this is the ground that we need to stand on for it is solid.
Paul says all of this more eloquently than I in 1 Corinthians 1.