One of the interesting things in Christianity is the question of who chooses what verses we follow and how we apply them in our lives. If you look at the Bible as a list of rules and regulations (as many do), this question has to be answered. As we read the Bible together, looking for new rules to follow, we will inevitably come across things we disagree on. Who decides which interpretation is correct? One passage says we should help widows, but only if they are over 60 years old. Another says that women must cover their head in church. Another says that we should not permit them to speak! One passage talks about how those who work in the church are worth paying, yet Paul earned the money for his ministry making tents. Who decides?
With other Christian-like alternatives, the answer can be pretty cut. Catholicism points to the pope. Mormonism has their prophet. In fact, I often believe that this helps attract people to them, because it is clear cut.
In Christianity, however, it is not. Sure, a Christian may point to his pastor, but pastors often disagree with each other. So they appeal to their elders, or denominations. However, while they all agree their ultimate authority comes from the word of God, they cannot agree how to actually interpret that work. And, as a result, we now have tens of thousands of denominations.
Who chooses which rules we follow and which ones are not important today? Jesus does. And his answer may surprise you. The answer is often referred to as “The Great Commandment.”
Matthew 22:35-40 English Standard Version (ESV) 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
The rest of the New Testament emphasizes that our approach to each other should absolutely spring out of this. Paul gives us specific examples of how to treat brothers who have different beliefs about holy days, food, etc. He tells us that rather than try to show the brother that his beliefs are wrong, we should simply love our brother in the faith. Ultimately whether or not he loves the Lord with his whole heart matters most. And, if we can agree on that, other matters should not divide us. Love answer the great question of ‘who decides.’
Should you dunk or sprinkle when you baptize? Should you go to church on Saturday, or Sunday? Should you dress nicely to honor the Lord or “come as your are” wearing less formal clothing? What if the answer was… do what you feel God leads you to in your heart. And, instead of insisting that you have the corner on all these smaller things and forcing your view on others siblings in the faith, you simply accept them and their faith in God as it is? After all, He is the author and finisher of our faith. He will complete the great work He started in them, as well as you.
More on this next week… as I can already hear some naysayers bringing up concerns about hearesty 🙂
If you watch Heart of the Matter on YouTube, this line of reasoning will sound very familiar. A shout out to Shawn McCraney who has been hitting this subject hard the last few weeks.
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