Salutations. This article piggybacks a bit off of my previous two about doctrine. You can check them out here and here. In those articles, I made an argument that as Christians, we live in a culture focused around ‘petty theologies’ instead of holy living. I illustrate the critical, core theologies we must have, and how the Bible steers us not to have perfect theology, but implores us to walk a holy life filled with love. Today, I focus on that topic.
Imagine a world where churches did not focus so much to teaching minor theologies. What would they do? After all, in the vast majority of faiths, a teacher or pastor spends 45 minutes or more just teaching these things. When I think of a church service, I think of some worship mixed in with a bunch of teaching. What would the focus of the church be if not teaching doctrine the vast majority of the time?
In John 13. 34, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Jesus made it clear that our focus should be on love. He went so far as to say in Matthew 22, “35And 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.”
In the world of finance, we have a ton of rules. Yet, no matter how many rules they create, two problems tend to happen. First, new situations pop up that the rules do not cover. Second, people will often interpret the letter of the rules in different ways and/or in ways that only benefit them. We see the same thing happen with businesses and laws. And, yes, we see the same thing in the church. How do we address these issues?
God could have added MANY more rules to the Bible, but He did not. Instead, Jesus gave us a lens to focus through. When one interprets the world, morality, and even theology, through that lens, it addresses so many of these issues. When we face a moral question that the Bible does not answer directly, we can evaluate the situation through the lens of loving God, and loving our fellow man. When a directive of the Bible puzzles us as to how we apply it in our church, we should consider it through the lens of loving God, and loving each other.
I honestly believe this applies to theology as well. Someone said that we have thousands of Christian denominations, separated on all kinds of theologies (the vast majority of which, I would consider minor or petty). I honestly believe that, much like languages, God allows this confusion into our midst. After all, He could have made many (if not all) of these points crystal clear in the Bible if He wanted. Remember, this God wrote Leviticus, a book filled with rules and regulations. Yet when it comes to many topics, say Baptism, we have pretty vague instructions that allow for much interpretation when it comes to how we baptize, what age, etc.
Why does God allow this confusion? I believe that it is so our love could shine even more. After all, we do not amaze the world when we love and get along with people who believe every theology that we do. However, when we give of ourselves to others of different backgrounds, nationalities, denominations and more, we demonstrate the love of Christ for all to see. This is the type of love you do not see in any major religion. If you differ from the main church, or other groups, they will separate from you (at best), call you a heritic, or even kill you… all over theological differences.
Contrast that Paul’s direction in Romans 14. Please read the entire thing. I’ll wait. Done? Good. You did not see an admonishment from Paul directing them to correct the weaker brother’s theology, or to separate with him because he clearly leans towards works instead of a pure focus on faith-based sanctification. No… instead you see a clear direction to accept the brother, in his weakness, and a warning to be careful about additional direction. Because, no matter how correct it may be, it can cause this weaker brother to sin as it does violate his conscious that God gives him. Contrast that with modern church where we constantly challenge everyone’s beliefs/theologies, and demand that they conform.
Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of love. Please do not throw the baby out with the bathwater and interpret the above to say that we should never discuss any theology, or that we should not preach the Gospel. Far from it! If we love people, we want them to know the Gospel and accept it for it is only by His name they can be saved! However, knowing that God does not have a theology test for us to get into heaven, and the above examples, perhaps we should lay off the constant barrage of theological emphasis, and focus on that which Christ himself repeatedly directed us to do. Let’s love one another.