There’s a road I’ve nicknamed, Church St. I’ve never actually stopped to count how many churches line that road, but I can think of five off the top of my head and I know there’s more than that. On the same note, when we drive through the downtown area, it seems as though there’s a church on every corner; Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Nazarene, Apostolic, Bible, Methodist, Catholic… the list goes on and on.
With so many denominations, it’s difficult to know which is which. While some seem to be completely different – in a category all their own, really – others seem fairly similar to each other and it’s confusing to say the least. Sometimes, I just get to wondering, “Why so many churches?”
Children have a knack for asking such questions as this one. Throughout the time that I’ve been teaching through Child Evangelism Fellowship, this question has come up on numerous occasions. It’s a broad topic and I wouldn’t attempt to cover it all in one post, but there is a section that I’d like to look a little closer at.
When I was little, my brother and I got into a lot of fights over silly things. Everyone said that the reason we fought so much was because we were too much alike, but I looked at him through my self-righteous eyes and thought, “I don’t want to be like him. He’s mean, he doesn’t share his toys, he argues too much and he’s just plain irritable.” Whether our personalities were similar or not, I was determined to do nothing the same as he did. With a plank in my own eye, I promptly decided that the speck in his was much too big and no matter what he did – right or wrong – I wanted to do the extreme opposite.
Things like this make me look back and smile at my own childishness. While my brother and I still don’t always get along, I’ve learned to accept the fact that we are a lot alike. In fact, because we’re so similar, he tends to understand me a little better than most people do and I’m thankful for that.
Anyway, as childish as my determination was, I look around at the people in all their denominations and see the very same thing. Now, I am not saying that we should all just form one big denomination and overlook every error in the beliefs of others. While some errors may be overlooked, there are foundational truths that must be believed in order to be a biblical Christian and that’s just the way it is.
What I am saying is this: With a denominational label on every believer, we end up focusing on who we’re trying not to be like and in most cases, this turns into an attempt to be the extreme opposite. Ever so suddenly, we aren’t basing our beliefs on what we find in the Word of God, but on our own, childish determination to be different in every way from someone that we don’t agree with.
This Side of the Scale or the Other? –
Everything has it’s extremes. Just today, I was reading a book which mentioned environmentalists and their major concerns over protecting the earth. I’m amazed at how overboard people will go with this stuff.
“The Finnish Green Party activist, Pentti Linkola, argues that human beings are an evolutionary mistake, a cancer of the earth. Linkola goes so far as to say that he has more sympathy for threatened insect species than for children dying of hunger in Africa.” -Gene Edward Veith, Jr.; Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture
That is extreme! People who take the life of an insect more seriously than the life of a child, have gone too far with their concern for maintaining this earth. Like all other things though, there is the other extreme of this subject. What about the people that are completely careless about the way that they maintain the earth that God has given us? God has put us in charge of caring for this earth, so there is nothing wrong with being cautious about the way that we use it’s resources, but God also gave us this earth to supply our needs and we must realize that. Anyway, I’m getting off topic.
Do you see the ways that extremes can go? Just because someone is wrong does not mean that you have to go to the complete opposite side of the scale. If you do, you’ll probably end up just as wrong or more than they are. We can’t be focusing what we do on what others are doing, but on what God has revealed to us through His Word.
So, what are you basing your beliefs off of? Have you founded your faith on the Words of God or are you simply struggling to be different from the people that you believe are wrong? Are you going overboard in your attempts to stray away from being like these people? And what about Christian love? Are you showing love to these people, despite your differences and giving them the care that Christ demands of us?
Be looking for: Denominational Differences: Love