Have you ever heard of this story?
Two men met some years ago at a convention. To their mutual surprise, they discovered that both had formerly been completely blind and that Jesus had opened their eyes and recovered their sight.
“Jesus is just awesome. Can you believe he spat on the ground and made mud, put it on my eyes and told me to go wash in a pool? Voila! I see so clearly”, said the first man.
“Oh yeah? That’s quite strange because He just spoke a word, and that was it for me”, said the other.
“Hmm, Jesus does use mud, I can tell you for a fact!”
“He does not. I was blind but after He spoke a word, BAM! He opened my eyes!”
“Where did you get this doctrine from? Can you really see? I ask because the use of the mud is very fundamental to our faith. I wonder how you can see without it.”
Next thing, the dawn of the “The Muddites” and “The Anti-Muddites” movement. These two groups spent their whole time in bitter rivalry while the blind all around them groped through life not knowing that the True Light had come to bring light to all who walked in darkness.
Good grief! How easy it is for trivial issues to cause major discrepancies within the Christian church.
Ultimately, you and I are not Christians by the denomination or the abomination that we belong to, says the author and famous apologist Dr. Ravi Zacharias. That is true because what ultimately defines Christianity is that the person of Christ dwells in a person’s heart and influences that entire being.
Differences of opinions have given rise to the many denominations in Christianity. We find ourselves in different denominations because we blend with people of common convictions on certain matters of the Christian faith—especially on the non-essentials (peripheral doctrines).
The scriptures do not label these non-essentials as sin in itself. They are, however, viewed as either “right” or “wrong” based on our personal preferences. This right vs wrong criticism has greatly harmed the growth and maintenance of the Christian community. Our petty squabbles repel the very people we wish to introduce into the family.
Romans 14 records Paul’s dealings with the Roman church on the various conflicts that arose during his time of office. The apostle seems to handle the problem so maturely by showing how possible it is for Christians on opposite ends of a matter to glorify God in what they do. Do you mean all matters? Absolutely not! Adultery, fornication, idolatry, sorcery, stealing, jealousy, strife, drunkenness, covetousness, and other fleshly desires (or fruits of the flesh) cannot glorify God. In the same way, it is a non-negotiable matter on essential doctrines such as the Deity of Christ (Both God and man), Bodily resurrection of Christ, Salvation by grace through Faith, The atoning work of Christ on the cross, Monotheism (there is only One God), the concept of Trinity. Denial of one or more of these central doctrines places one’s faith in something else. It could be another great being or creature but it ends there; just another creature NOT the Creator!
Now, if both the one who esteems one day above the other and the one who esteems everyday alike or the one who eats only vegetables and the other who freely eats all things or whatever the non-essential may be—that which does not destroy the work of God—do so in a truth-honoring, God-exalting and God-pleasing way, why lift the rod of judgment against another man’s conviction? “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own MASTER he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for GOD is ABLE to make him STAND” (Romans 14:4).
There will definitely be disagreements on non-essential matters and you have to make a decision. There’s no sitting on the fence or anything goes in such matters. Paul in his letter to the Roman church issues a command, not a concession that each one must be fully convinced (persuaded, satisfied) in his own mind about the nonessential scruples. (Romans 14:5). It is very necessary to have a strong conviction for your actions because whatever is done apart from faith is sin (Romans 14:23). Be fully convinced that your abstention or involvement in practices on food, baptism, festivals, music, or any other non-essentials is in honor and gratitude to God our Father and our dear Lord, Jesus Christ. After all, if we live, we live for Him and if we die, we die for Him.
C.S Lewis describes Christianity (more like ‘Mere’ Christianity) as a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. Once you reach the hallway, you must decide which room to lodge. You do not stay in the hallway forever; it is in the rooms that one finds the fire, chairs, and meals. In the hallway, your criteria for choosing a specific room should be based on questions like, “Are the essential doctrines scriptural? Is holiness here?” not “I like their kind of service” or something not linked to the central truth of Christianity. It is very crucial to enter the right room, very crucial. It is for this reason every soul needs to offer heartfelt prayers for spiritual illumination. We do need guidance to enter the right room. It is imperative we lodge in a room where form (style) is not a god but rather a means of directing the congregants to worship the true substance (essence), God. There, our hearts tune magnificently to the sweet, melodious rhythm of the infinite, uncaused, independent Being who alone is worthy to receive our praises!
Love across the fences, despising or judging none. Peacefully, we may agree to disagree on non-essential matters but our vertical commitment to Christ must remain unsullied. Don’t go about boasting that I am of this church and I am of that church and all that because it is forbidden (1 Corinthians 1). Take time to pray for the recovery of them that may have strayed into the path of darkness. You-n-I-ted in Diversity? That’s right! Let’s make it happen. The Trinity longs to see it take place. The world needs to see it manifest among believers. Let that sink in deep.