I am writing this post with a heavy heart. Recently, the Lord has been molding me and introducing the reality of Matthew 22: 37-39.
Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
The other day I was left in tears after hearing the harsh judgement and disdain for a professor that is teaching in ministry. The professor was being criticized for having and producing students with “bad theology”. As one of these students, my heart broke and I was overcome with frustration. This professor has been known to make students think critically about scripture and become comfortable with being uncomfortable. This professor introduces students to Christian theology of all denominations and encourages us to be in community of faith with all believers, not just the ones that think like us.
The problem I think is so prevalent today is the fact that as followers of Christ, we get so caught up on the little things about each denomination, like whether or not women can be ministers, or whether baptism is done at infancy or young adulthood, that we forget the whole point of the gospel. Jesus has paid it all for us, showering us with undeniable grace and mercy, and at the end of the day, our salvation is not based on how we worship on Sundays or whether or not we sing the doxology. The traditions we have in the church and our interpretation of various scripture may be a means to help us worship, but they don’t give us eternal life, only Jesus does. When we refuse to listen to people who differ than us, what we end up doing is walking away from Jesus. We become the Pharisees of the 21st century, and that is what keeps us from loving others well! God’s intention for the church was not for all of us to disagree and separate based on small variations of our beliefs. This divides us, rather than uniting us under Christ.
At my church back in Charleston, we did a sermon series on the Holy Spirit, and our pastor Chris Warner talked about how we as Christians sometimes impede the Holy Spirit from moving in our lives by doing the very things the Pharisees did. By focusing on small works, and trying to achieve perfect theology we don’t let the Spirit move in us! 1 Thessalonians says “do not quench the Spirit” (5:19), and we should take this seriously!
Following Jesus does not mean we need to have the same theology as the person next to us, or that we need to scour the Bible in order to determine whether it says God is actually a male or a female (believe it or not people got very upset over this debate). The key to following Jesus is LOVE. That means loving others who are different than you, loving people who drink, loving people who are judgmental, loving people no matter what their sin, because that the end of the day, all of our sin is sin. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, and sin doesn’t come with a ranking system. I know sometimes I have a hard time understanding that my sin is no lesser than anyone else’s but its true! The Pharisees believe that they did good things, and that they were better than others, but people who have a real heart for Jesus throw their hands up and say forgive me, Lord, and lead me to you!
Lord, help me love others as you loved me. Lead me to spread Your kingdom here on Earth, and find my redemption in You.