God will make clear to you: On disagreements and doctrine

This weekend I’ve been thinking again about how often the question, “What do you believe about X?” is used to determine whether or not someone is truly a Christian — X being any number of things such as homosexuality, abortion, heaven and hell, universal heath care, which political party is more “Christian”, and on and on. It is a question that goes all the way back to the Anabaptists and whether baptism should be given in infancy or at the age of understanding and profession of faith, and back before that to the split between the Roman Catholic church and the Eastern Orthodox church over whether the Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son or just from the Son, and back even further than that to the early church over whether non-Jewish Christians had to be circumcised. When I share a perspective that challenges my readers, they often respond with a doctrinal question aimed at clarifying whether or not I am a “true” Christian. The idea is that if I answer the question correctly, they will consider what I’ve said, but if I answer incorrectly, they will dismiss me as a false Christian, and gladly dismiss the uncomfortable feeling that there might be something to what I have said.

I love these readers, actually. They are some of my favorite people, because even in asking the question they are taking a step outside their comfort zone. I get a lot of commenters lecturing me, scolding me, and scoffing at me, but the ones who ask questions, even if the question is aimed at discrediting me or putting me in a doctrinal box, show an openness to a response. A question opens up the possibility of a conversation, and a conversation opens up the possibility of a relationship, and a relationship opens up the possibility of finding common ground, not necessarily in doctrine and beliefs, but in our spiritual orientation, the direction in which we are facing and the person towards whom we are moving. For Christians, the common denominator is not our stance on heaven and hell, or our views on baptism, or the way we vote. Our common denominator is Jesus, “Jesus Christ and him crucified,” as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:2.

So when one of my readers asks me, “What do you believe about X,” I first of all thank them. I am genuinely grateful that they have read my words, and thought about them, and taken the time to respond. And then I tell them this:

I am a professed Christian, and have read the Bible many times. The thoughts in this post and in all my writing reflect a deep, life-long meditation on God’s word and a continual seeking to conform my life to my Savior’s. Over the years, I have come to feel that, “What do you believe?” isn’t as helpful a question for us Christians to ask each other as, “How are you directing your words, your actions, and your life towards Christ?” You and I have different interpretations of some parts of scripture, and have come to different conclusions about X, but we are both seeking to know, love, and serve God through Jesus Christ. So we have the most important thing in common! I cling to the promise of Philippians 3:15, that, “…if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” If we both keep our hearts and our feet turned towards Jesus, our steps will move us nearer and nearer to him. And even if we are in very different places doctrinally, if we are both moving towards Christ then we will somehow, mysteriously, be moving closer to each other, too.



8 comments on “God will make clear to you: On disagreements and doctrine

  1. Jennifer says:

    I love this!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Brad S. says:

    “I give you a new commandment: that you should love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another. By this shall all [men] know that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves].”
    ‭‭John‬ ‭13:34-35‬ ‭AMP‬‬

    Liked by 1 person

    • Katherine says:

      In order to even become a disciple of His, though, someone shared the Gospel with us, or we picked up a Bible or somehow fell on our knees in our hearts and realized our personal sin and that we needed Jesus as our payment for that debt. If I don’t share that with anyone, but serve their physical and emotional needs, while ignoring their spiritual, I’m falling short, I say.
      Jesus told us to love one another (other believers) so the world would know we are disiples. The command to Love the Lord Your God as you love your neighbor needs to have salvation/discipleship happen first for that to happen. He is most concerned that we *are* loving Him (which is much more than an assent to an altar call or something, it is a deep, lifelong loving, learning, obeying, meditative walk with Him) then we can love others.


  3. Robert says:

    I like how Hank Hanegraaff put it. There are primary issues and secondary issues. Primary issues: virgin birth, sinless life, resurrection, Jesus(100% man 100% God). These are not open for debate.
    Secondaries[doctrinal] issues: issues that are more denominational or based in tradition, we can have healthy debate over,but it should not divide us(iron sharpens iron). There are, more recently, scriptural rendinerings that the body of Christ will have to (eventually)deal with, but we must do it in love.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dororthy Coffin says:

    I very much enjoyed reading this article. There are, in fact, many differences on various issues among different Christian communities and denominations. Although as you have commented the most important of all is that we seek to love and serve God through Jesus Christ. I myself am on that journey of moving closer and closer to Jesus and I hope that I too will be one of those that will come together with all souls who love Christ. However long that takes each one of us is not important. what is important is that we get there.
    I love reading your blog.
    keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Katherine says:

    What if my answer was ministering to AIDS patients physical needs, but telling them that homosexuality is still sin as God’s Word says, and His word remains the same. I do that. Some of these men (no women are in the group home) have received Christ as their Savior and repented/confessed their sin nature they had coming into this fallen world, and their personal sins while living here. What if I told you that caring for their physical needs isn’t as important as their eternal destiny to me, and I believe, to God. I take that attitude/conviction to all the other people I meet in life. I usually meet both needs at once, by my heartbeat is always for their salvation, as I believe God’s is.


  6. Jules says:

    You are an example of humility and respect, Jessica. True breath of the Spirit. Thanks….and….you definitely “got a witness” ov-a-hee-aah!!

    Liked by 1 person

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