For the past 10 years, I have been caught in between many worlds of the Christian faith. I grew up southern baptist; I worked at progressive non-denominational church; I went to a Catholic college; I have led trips for churches from the mainline denominations; I have friends in the Orthodox church; I am now an Anglican. I have more questions than answers. I have theological misgivings with most of them — including the Anglican church — but if you know Christians by their fruit and their love, then the fruit is fresh and ripe across the board. Also, every single one of these denominations fall into the temptation of legalism, and if they have somehow skirted this abomination by God’s grace, they adhere unknowingly to some other vice.
You extend more grace toward some denomiations, and judge others more strongly. So do I, and I hate myself for it. Sometimes your critiques are insightful and helpful. Sometimes they self-righteous. So are mine.
When it comes to loving Jesus, following him, being loved by him, I’m not sure what all this means. What I do know is this — we, the Church, Christianity, and people who love Jesus, have given the world enough reasons to walk away.
“Too many ‘truths’ are wielded by people who are angry and without humility. I t hink if a truth is not accepted, it is because it is not given humbly. Truth that is weilded like a bludgeon overwhlems and is rejected. Truth should be humble. Jesus said, ‘I am gentle and humble of heart.'” The Monks of Tibhirine
I have been incredibly encouraged by the amount of Christians doing the work of Jesus here in Athens. Many have given their lives for the cause of Christ; they have sacrificed their desires and wills to love the refugees because they believe Jesus provides hope for a people who have lost all hope.
On the other hand, I have also been discouraged by many of them, too. Alliances have been formed amongst evangelical churches that exclude Catholics and Orthodox Christians because they deem them as being not “born again.” Ecumenical relationships have been forged between Anglicans and the Orthodox church, but they have left out the evangelicals because they proselytize in an overt way while providing aid. Yet, the work all of them is doing is in the name of Jesus. My heart hurts for the division amongst ourselves. I know, I know, it is an age old problem, one that will continue for the rest of time, but the sting will always be present.
I wish, in the times of desperation and brokenness, when the Church catholic responds to the needs of the world, we could get on board with Abbot Jean-Marc —
“Christians get lost too easily in dogma and theology . Every conception imoses a limit. Doctrine limits. What is important is my relation to the other person.”
This is why Jesus narrows all of the commandments down into two simple ones which deal with the relation to the other — Love God; Love your neighbor. Who is your neighbor? All men.
“All men are created in God’s image [Catholics and evangelicals!]. God is presesnt in all his children, including killers. It is never too late for his children to come home…Without a belief in God’s presence in all his creatures, no matter how dim the spark might seem, men lose their humanity. They become mere labels, and abstrations…If you love only those who love you [or think like you], what have you accomplished? Even the despised tax collector can do that, the Lord reminded his disciples.” The Monks of Tibhirine
I pray my judgmental attidude towards other denominations are washed away. I pray God gives me the peace to challenge the preconceived notions of those who drag both the evangelicals and the orthodox through the mud because of some doctrinal differences. I pray Christians wouldn’t be married to divisive language, but instead would seek the common language of the creeds and the commandments of Jesus — words all Christians hold on to dearly.