Spiritually groomed in a church culture that emphasized the practice of separation, I learned in the early days of my journey with Jesus that it was my presumed responsibility to be suspicious of those who were different than me. At various points I remember hearing well-meaning (but misguided) Christians speak about God’s expectation that we should maintain distance from people in the Church who believed differently than us. Mind you, I’m not talking about essential doctrinal differences; I’m speaking of slight distinctions in flavor among people who testify that Jesus Christ is their Lord. Nearly all of these issues for separation were external issues. Some of them were nothing more than divisive terms and denominational distinctions. Looking back I now discern that much of what begged my separation was little more than cultural nuance that had been perpetuated for decades, and elevated to the level of becoming primary matters in the Kingdom. Within a week of coming to Christ I also learned that it wasn’t just the Baptists (I was an Independent Fundamental Baptist in those years) that held to these standards. At a church league softball game an acquaintance who had just learned of my radical deliverance from drugs and alcohol looked at me with scorn and sneered, “Why in the world did you become a Baptissssssst?” The contempt in his voice was clear – in his mind, his brand of Christianity was far superior than my own. Quite frankly, at that time I had no clue of the differences between the many denominations. I was just plain tickled to have experienced forgiveness and deliverance from my God – imagine that!
Please tattoo this upon your spiritual reasoning: God reserves the right to fully approve of and mightily bless people who think and believe very differently than you think and believe.
God is not seeking your endorsement. You don’t have a corner on the market of all-things-spiritual. It will be a blessing to you and others if you will turn in your badge and resign the office of High Sheriff of Christiantown. If you plan on wasting more years defining yourself by what you DON’T believe in, then you will likely experience less joy, less fellowship, less effectiveness, and a whole lot less relationship with people that are interested in your input concerning the Kingdom.
“I am a companion of all who fear You, of those who keep Your precepts.” – Psalm 119:63
King David said in this verse above that he considered himself to be a companion of any and all people who met two criteria. They needed to be people of saving faith. When the Old Testament employs the phrase “the fear of God”, it is referencing the concept of salvation from , submission to, and justification before God. People who fear the Lord in the Old Testament are the same as those in the New Testament who are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. David wondered who was saved…and then, upon discovering that they were, David looked for the secondary mark – fidelity to the Scriptures. The man after God’s own heart stated that he was in fellowship with those who believed in and clung to God’s Word. What a wise believer is the one who recognizes that the Scriptures are the standard by which we live! If a fellow saint could reverence God’s Word as God has given it, David knew that there existed a foundation for mutual partnering in life. Inherent in this belief there is also the recognition that David would need to sacrifice some of his own personal preferences in order to maintain that fellowship. It is a near impossibility that we will meet another believer who agrees with us in every component of the Christian faith. Praise God that we don’t have to agree! We have the God-empowered ability to humble ourselves, agree to disagree when needed, and then march forward together in unity of the Spirit. Not every solider walks in size twelve boots, and it is unwise to believe that they all should.
Do you prioritize this in your life?
I spent a few hours last week with Christians (primarily pastors) of different flavors of the faith. Denominationally, it was a broad mix. Nobody fixated on our different positions in peripheral issues. I certainly didn’t pigeonhole any of them based on their denominational affiliation of lack thereof. They don’t agree with me about everything. We didn’t spend the morning debating the finer points of theology or cultural preferences. We talked, listened, and then prayed for the Holy Spirit to bring genuine revival to our community. We were black, white, hispanic, younger, older, suit-jackets and blue jeans. Together we sought to create bridges in the Kingdom; we prayed open doors unto the unsaved by exalting what God has done for them. When the morning was over we left full of the satisfaction of deep fellowship and new friendships. It was, simply put, refreshing to be around saved folk with whom we shall share eternity. Nobody seemed skeptical, suspicious or nervously cautious. We experienced meaningful connection as we magnified and petitioned the King together. God seemed pleased to honor that.
Enlarge your own soul today and look to be one who does not succumb to fearing that which is different. If everybody in the Kingdom was just like me, it would not only be a lopsided representation of my Lord…it would be a very vanilla expression of a Savior who is infinitely and beautifully multifaceted. I much prefer the rainbow sherbet reality of God’s Church. I’m very glad to be a part of it with you.
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