When I was four, we moved. It wasn’t a very big move; from a city lot to a more rural area. I don’t remember much about it, really, but I do remember looking long and hard for a new church to go to. Sunday after Sunday, we would file into an unfamiliar church and hope it had what we needed.
I couldn’t tell you much about the first time I walked into Mt. Pleasant Bible Church. When I picture it in my mind, the first thing I see are the steps, leading up to the sanctuary and next I see a perfect stranger of a little girl (soon to be my best friend), turning in her pew to smile at me. As a four year old, I didn’t really have a clue what we were looking for in a church, but here was this little girl that seemed the perfect option for my friend – I found myself sincerely hoping that we would stay. Well, we did… for ten years!
“Blah, Blah, Blah, Theology…”
Now that we were at this church, a typical Sunday evening would find us lounging in our pastor’s home, while he and my dad talked theology until well past one in the morning. They would debate and drone on, while I struggled to stay awake. Some nights, I just gave in to my drowsiness and fell fast asleep on the comfortable couch. The pastor’s wife soon developed the saying, “blah, blah, blah, theology…” and it was our little joke for each time we found ourselves in this situation.
However, there were times when I would get to wondering, “Why were we here if dad didn’t completely agree with the pastor?” I would listen to them debate on topics far above my level, expecting the sincerity that was evident in both of their voices, to hinder a friendship between these two. But these debates did nothing of the sort. Even when other men joined in the conversation, it grew their friendship rather than pulling it apart.
“In essentials, unity, in non-essentials, liberty, in all things, charity.”
Essentials are… well, essential. These are the things that define us as Christians and they are the things that we must have unity on. Things such as:
“…for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” John 8:24
In his Exposition of the Entire Bible, theologian, John Gill, says this about the verse above:
“For if believe not that I am He; the everlasting and unchangeable I AM, the true God, God over all, blessed for ever; the eternal Son of God, God manifest in the flesh, really made flesh, and become incarnate; the true Messiah, the only Savior of sinners; the one and only Mediator between God and man…”
This is only one example. Other essentials include: His conception by the Holy Spirit, His sinless life, His vicarious atonement, His physical resurrection and return, ect.
Non-essentials aren’t quite as important and tend to be debated on. Whether people are debating on the continuation of spiritual gifts, the doctrine of predestination, church government, music/worship, ect. these things aren’t essential to our salvation. While it is wonderful for us to study these things out for ourselves, we must realize our own, limited capacity to understand the things of God. I am sure that there are times when God simply smiles at our futile attempts to completely understand Him. We’re human, finite, and because we can only see life from our own, insignificant perspective, there are so many things that don’t even begin to cross our minds. I heard an example the other day that put this in perspective for me. Perhaps I can think of a way to explain it that will help you to understand what I’m trying to say:
It’s a beautifully, sunny day at the beach. The ocean breeze is running through his sandy, blonde hair as the little boy digs with his shovel. In a short time, he’s made a small hole and jumps up, taking hold of his bucket and running to the shore. One scoop and his pail is brimming as he tugs it back to the little hole and empties its salty contents. The sand drinks in the water and soon there’s nothing but damp ground, but that doesn’t discourage him. Another trip down to the shore, another trip back, and another pail emptied into the thirsty hole.
We smile at this story, perhaps, but we’re not so very different. When we try to understand every little thing about God, we might as well be trying to fit the whole ocean in that little, bitty hole.
So you see, we’re no great authority on the scripture. We understand things from our own perspectives and we must admit that this understanding may very well be wrong and is most definitely incomplete. There is room for error in these non-essentials and no matter how sure we are that our position is the correct one, we have no right to despise others because they do not believe the same way.
In All Things, Charity –
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” -1 Corinthians 13:1-2
Jesus was known for hanging around tax collectors and adulterers; these people were wrong and sinful. Jesus – being God – understands all of the mysteries of the Bible, has all the knowledge that there is and yet, here He is, associating with these people, while we tend to stick our noses up at them. We take the well known, “holier than thou” attitude, all the while forgetting that Jesus had every right to do the same because He actually is holy. But did He? No, Jesus showed love, compassion and forgiveness to these people and He is the example of love to each of us.
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12
Let Jesus be your example of love and let your love – through Him – be an example to others of how great a God we serve. People don’t always agree and that’s okay. When searching for a church, remember what is most important: unity in the essential things, liberty in the the non-essentials, and love in everything.
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” -1 Corinthians 13:4-13