“What Divides Us”
by Jamie Anderson
To be “open” – what does that look like as a Christian?
I’m not talking about openness as it comes to trusting or sharing personal things with other people.
I’m not even talking about accepting nonbelievers into the church (although we absolutely should, but that’s a wonderful topic for another time).
I’m getting at the way we view and treat each other and our slightly differing beliefs as we live as the body of Christ.
The truth is, we as humans disagree with each other even in our own circles. Christians, whether it’s between denominations or between two friends in the same church, disagree with each other. What we need to learn, then, is how to disagree with each other. In these circumstances, openness means to admit when we are wrong.
There is nothing wrong with standing firm in what you believe in. Christianity encourages fighting for your faith and what you know to be true! What we absolutely cannot do is become blind by burying ourselves so far into our religious theories that we don’t see reason from other believers or from God. I see this happen in different ways among Christians, and these are just some examples:
A believer wants so badly to hold to a certain principle that they don’t really see what the Bible has to say about it.
An argument between believers has hostilities rising because neither of them will back down.
A believer who God is calling to some new mission in their life is so stubborn in believing they can’t do it that they fail to answer the call.
Sometimes we have the best intentions but fail to delve into Scripture with a truly open mind and heart. Challenging ourselves and God with hard questions is what’s going to help us grow! It’s all about hearing what God is really teaching, and that thing might be different than what we were taught growing up (yikes).
It can be frustrating to learn that God is calling us to give up something we once believed (especially if we have believed it for a long period of time) or a specific comfort in life in lieu of something more. Typically, people want to avoid discomfort, especially if it has the potential to damage our pride. But it is DANGEROUS to believe that we are right about everything. Only God is always right.
“ 5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord.” (-Romans 14:5-8)
God has brought me out of a lot of dogmatic and faith-halting ideologies over the years. Now, my personal ideology on every single situation is that I am going to educate myself to the best of my ability and seek God on it as absolute ultimate truth, but if I get to heaven and find out that I was wrong the whole time? I am so okay with admitting that! It won’t matter anymore! We will all know God’s absolute ultimate truth and be united eternally in it!!!
“Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart.” (-1 Corintians 4:5 NIV)
Obviously, I’m not going to go around saying, “Well I believe murder is wrong, but hey, if you aren’t convicted by that, go ahead and do whatever you want, buddy!” There are certain stances on sin that the Bible makes very clear. What crosses into disunity in the body of Christ is when we forget the love we ought to have for each other and allow ourselves to bring up divides. What becomes dangerous is when we are so self-righteous that we can’t recognize God’s voice. Jesus Himself prayed very passionately in John 17 that we would all be united in heart and mind, allowing Christ to be the head of His body (I encourage you all to read this passage fully; it is one of my favorites).
So how do we practice this “openness” individually?
First and foremost, we need to pray that God would open our eyes to the way that He sees things and ask Him to completely take away of all of our human mindsets, biases, and pride. Ask God what tasks He has for you, too; be open to life-changing things like inviting that intimidating person to hang out, signing up for that scary (and expensive) missions trip, or even considering adopting that child (or children!) that you know need a loving home.
Secondly, we need to participate in healthy discussion on spiritual and worldly matters with other believers. This is part of joining in fellowship and community with each other. We have the potential, by God’s hand, to change people’s hearts or enlighten them with things they’ve never thought about, and also to become enlightened by others! This requires us to maintain mutual love and respect at all times, and to make Christ the center of all viewpoints (I cannot stress this enough). Also, ask people for advice! But ask God more.
Thirdly, we need to continually remain in God’s Word, while doing the first thing – praying for openness to truth – along the way. We must educate ourselves on what God says. And as you remain steadfast and genuine in the Word, God will shape you into the unique person He has created you to be and invite you to things you’ve never experienced (I recommend reading/studying Romans 14; I’ve learned a lot from it).
We shouldn’t believe everything everyone says. We should believe everything God says. This week, I challenge you to ask yourself the deeper questions about your life in faith. I challenge you to fairly consider and research that thing you don’t want to budge on. Be open to what God is saying to you.