I’ve experienced many kinds of churches in my life. I grew up as part of the Catholic church, was baptized into an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church during my sophomore year of high school, and, as a college student, currently attend an Evangelical Free church.
Each transition into a new branch of faith has a long story leading up to it, but, one thing they each have in common is that one of my first reactions was always to look back on my old faith with a sense of disrespect and superiority. It has taken me a long time and a lot of learning in order to understand just how wrong this is.
The problem is that it’s so easy to point the finger when you think you’ve got all of the answers.
The Purpose of the Church
Ephesians 4:1-6 says, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Our salvation does not rest in the denomination of the church that we attend. Our salvation rests in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who freed us from the debt of our sin and reunited us with the Father through redemption. The church that we attend is the avenue through which we pursue our relationship with God as we cultivate righteousness and love within our hearts and within the body of Christ, seeking to make His glory known throughout the world.
As I look back on my faith journey, I see how God placed me exactly where I needed to be during certain seasons in my life and how He revealed specific degrees of knowledge and understanding to me at the right time. Everything that I’ve believed and all that I have learned and experienced was a tiny step in the journey to where I am, what I believe, and who I am today. By scoffing at the beliefs of others I am scoffing at the sovereign hand of God who has faithfully led me to the place of communion that I now share with him.
Passing Judgment on One Another
People often judge various church denominations by the societal clichés that have become attached to them. While on the macro level a church may fit such a description, on the micro level I only see myself—a confused and hurting high-schooler desperately chasing God in whatever ways she knows how.
As the passage in Ephesians says, we are all part of the same hope, the same body, the same faith. If we really do desire to encourage one another in our understanding of faith, I don’t see how crude jokes and judgmental humor are going to get us there. Condemning our brothers and sisters because they worship differently than we do does absolutely nothing to serve the greater purposes of proclaiming God’s name here on earth. If we say that we are followers of Christ, but exclude others from His love, what does that say about our own hearts?
From political parties to religious circles, too much of our culture is characterized by attacking people who are different from us, and, to the rest of the world, the body of Christ is just one subset of diversity within an entire universe of it. Let us not strive to teach the world how to tolerate our differences behind masks of niceness and politeness, but to teach them how to lovingly accept and value one another, especially as children of the One True God.