Wrestling Through Our Religious Differences and Our Wildly Varying Christian Convictions

wherethecherryblossomsdance asked a question:

Could I ask you a question? Is it a bad thing to want everyone, regardless of their religion and faith to just worship together and love one another? Is it really wrong to want to go to someone who is Muslim, Jewish, Pagan, and go “Let’s worship together?” I feel that as long as different religions and beliefs attack one another, insisting that one is right and all others are wrong, this cannot become a reality, and it saddens me. I want to see us all get along and join together. Is that so bad?

tworoadsdivergedblog asked a question:

Something I’ve always wondered is how we (Christians) all serve one God but differ so much when it comes to doctrine (sure, there are basic things we agree upon, but we also have so many little things we disagree with that we have to label ourselves) ? Are we just simply not meant to fully understand the truth? I get that we are all different, and we can’t put God in a box, but if we are all in a relationship with one God, how is it that we aren’t unanimous when it comes to interpreting scripture and whatnot? We can’t all be right, so how do we know what is right to believe? Our feelings? Convictions?

Hey there my dear friends, to be very truthful: this has always been a tough one for me. Because —

– I’ve had relatives pass away who did not know Christ, and I’ve sincerely hoped that some part of them had accepted Christ and that it was enough.

– If I’m to believe Christianity is real, then I’m to accept that everything Jesus taught on Hell is also real, and this is not a particular reality that I find easy to face.

– Our wildly varying Christian convictions sometimes leads me to think that none of us have it right, and maybe there are different ways to the Truth after all.

– I also consider myself a skeptical Christian, so I might not even be the best person to re-affirm your thoughts here either.

While I know we won’t all see eye-to-eye nor can I hope to answer all your concerns, here’s the bare minimum that I believe.

– I do believe there is an essential absolute Truth with a capital T.  I believe Prime Truth exists regardless of my desire that it didn’t exist, and it’s objective and non-contingent to myself.  1+1 must equal 2. Matter either exists in a certain space or doesn’t.  Schrödinger’s cat is alive or dead or both.

– I believe some people are in the right and some people are in the wrong.  This means we can’t always have it both ways.  Once you decide upon a particular path, you’ve been launched into momentum.  What I mean is, when you start singing a song or giving a public speech, you’re now in the middle of it.  If you say, “No wait, I would like to sing another song at the same time as this one” or “I want to say two speeches now,” you can’t.  You may only start again.

When we try to presume upon all choices in a binary situation (and there are many close-ended situations), we want “the best of both worlds.”  We’re saying, “No matter what I choose, I want it all.”  It’s like trying to smuggle in the benefits of a relationship while staying single.  This is denying the common reality of our choices, and it lacks both integrity and substance.

Please hear me though: It’s always great to share life with people of other beliefs.  There is zero reason that I give you less dignity no matter how deeply our differences might go (and maybe for once, we can avoid Godwin’s Law).  In fact, me loving you is never based upon you being in the right or wrong, and if your thinking is wrong, it’s even more reason for me to love you, and not less.  Yet the least loving thing I can do is to say “believe whatever you want,” because that means I love you less, and not more.

However, I’m not going to coerce you into the right by telling you the consequences of the wrong.  In other words, the threat of Hell is never a successful motivation for Heaven.  The point of Christianity is not to pit some dichotomy between a true or false question: because only people do that to you.  Rather, I’ve always known faith to be slowly awakening to the reality of who God is and what He’s done for us.

– I believe there are is a core essential truth, but then our secondary subjective experience points towards this truth.  When a sunset evokes a feeling of nostalgia and a soaring in our hearts: this subjective feeling of emotion is pointing to the objective truth of beauty.  Yet we’ll all feel this differently, with a range of memories and stories and associated smells and sounds and sensations, each so infinitely apart from the next person.

As Neil Gaiman said:

“Everybody has a secret world inside of them … Inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds … Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe.”

– Despite my daily doubting and my intermittent anger at history gone wrong, I believe there must be a True God.  I believe reality has been revealed through Jesus, the incarnation of the True God, and that he jumpstarted healing in this broken world in one place, at one time, at one point in human history, as an invitation effective for eternity.

No other religion, in my earnest opinion, even comes close to this idea.  We didn’t have to find God, but God came to us.  We don’t add God to our story, but this story is already His.  And I don’t think Jesus died on a cross to say, “Okay so get on any path to find the Truth now, up to you guys.”  He said, “It is finished.” 

But how we arrive to this truth and how this event speaks to us will be so highly dependent upon our uniquely wired individual personalities.  No two people will see Jesus exactly the same, though he remains the same; yet even more amazing, two people can pray to this same God at the same time and reach two conclusions about their lives, in the same moment.

– We need room in the body of Christ for our different subjective experiences of the one objective reality.  God has a bigger imagination than you or me, and to limit Him into our own singular preconceived doctrine is to shrink God into a de-powered toy.  When you look at the vast myriad of people in the world: you’re seeing the imaginative creative power of God.  Some of us prefer structure and authority and tradition, and that’s not legalism.  Some of us need a sermon podcast or we just reflect by a river.  If you ask me what a Christian looks like, I would say a Christian looks like you and me.  Yet it’s not God who gets this confused, but us.

Of course, I know that cults exist.  I know that some people can hijack the beauty of Jesus into their own agendas by slightly twisting the truth with slick language.  I’m all for orthodoxy and clear theology and fighting heresy.  I just think we’re too quick to get on a high horse about this, and we would rather demonize than gently instruct others.  The moment we lose humility, we always lose Christ, and will therefore lose love.

An easy way to tell if you have the right convictions is to ask: Is my theology making me more gracious and humble with such truth? If your theology is making you less gracious and more of a jerk, then you haven’t really met Jesus and you’re still just playing with religion.

– In the end, I can only be loving if I tell you the truth, and I will tell you that truth in love.

I don’t mean to say that “speaking the truth in love” is some kind of sneaky way to disguise my truth with nicer words.  I’m not trying to Trojan-horse you my ideology.  I mean to say that I believe the True Story of the World rests upon a redeemer who came to save a people who could not save themselves: to save weary prideful sinners like me, and that this grace is available this very second. No theology must make this difficult to understand. It will cost you your life; but so does everything else, except that Jesus in return gives you the only True Life.

I don’t want you to waste one more moment without knowing this love.  I have to tell you about the one who changed my life. There is a fountain, and you can drink freely, and it’s what you’ve been looking for your whole life.

You may arrive there one day when your car flips over into the next lane and you emerge without a scratch.  You could be at a park, watching the stillness of a lake, a single leaf swirling on the surface in a slow dance with the wind: and you’ll know.  You could see a father with his son in a yard, chasing each other with roars and countdowns, laughter beating from their chests: and you’ll see.  You may read of heroic sacrifice in a disaster and weep, or see a movie where the villain wins and it doesn’t sit right, or you’ll cry for justice over the downtrodden: and you’ll lift your eyes.

We all find that one day, whether at five or twenty-five or eighty-five, whether in fortune or fame or failure, that we want to be vulnerable and known and somehow still loved: and that somewhere, an unfailing inexhaustible love must exist, regardless of who we are or what we’ve done.  I believe such truth came to us in a person, and I find myself loving such a person to be the greatest adventure, the greatest gift, the truest journey.  And in finding Him: I found that He had found me.

— J.S.

5 thoughts on “Wrestling Through Our Religious Differences and Our Wildly Varying Christian Convictions

  1. Thank you for this, I’ve been having a difficult time loving God. But there’s no reason for me to not. If you don’t mind, may I ask a question? My fear of being wishy-washy, and falling away from Christ is making me an indecisive person. I’ve talked to God about this, how can I overcome this? Thank you for this post, I appreciate it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A little more philosophical than you usually are, but you have a tough question here. May I just affirm that I can resist behaviour when someone kills, steals and destroys (John 10:10), but my view and experience are pitiful substitutes for God’s grace. I cannot say who goes to heaven, no matter how self-righteous I might be on any given day. Since God is not willing that anyone should perish I suspect God has ways of reaching souls which I can’t even imagine! So, best if we don’t play God, but stick to loving like Jesus loved. That will keep us busy enough. And your article oozes that love, however vaguely we can portray it.


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