If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20)
Nothing you will read here is different from what I’ve written or said dozens of times over the past decade. Neither do I believe what I write now once again will make any more difference than it has in time past.
But the thought is once again heavy on my heart, and so – here goes:
As a charismatic Protestant I wondered why all Christians, regardless of their label, didn’t come to what Pentecostals call the “Full Gospel.” Why would they not want to enjoy and participate in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit?
But in time I realized that what some called the Full Gospel, others called heresy. What some called experiencing the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, others called working with demons.
Our differences went even deeper. What some called Biblical truths, others called heresy. What some believed to be the correct method of worship, others called stuffy and ritualistic.
When I committed myself to Jesus in 1972 I was in near total ignorance of the cavernous differences that exist among Christian groups. Because I was raised in a Jewish family in a Jewish neighborhood, my acquaintance with non-Jews was minimal. Then, when I met Christ on a military base in Japan, my only exposure to Christian worship was in the military base chapel where Christians of every Protestant denomination met together and where all Christians got along as brothers and sisters in Christ – regardless of our label. (I was only marginally aware that Catholics had their own services at a different time in the same chapel).
When I discharged from the navy, my wife and I moved to Springfield, Missouri where I was to attend an Assemblies of God (Pentecostal) college. In the same town was another bible college – Baptist Bible College, a member of a Baptist denomination called, Baptist Bible Fellowship.
At first, I did not know each group eyed the other with suspicion about their purity of doctrines – until I went to a pharmacy to fill a prescription. When, for insurance purposes, the pharmacist asked where I attended school, I told him. But a few minutes later, as he handed me my medication, I noticed he’d written on my receipt the name of the Baptist school. When I corrected him, his face blushed, and just about fell over himself apologizing for his mistake.
When I asked him why he was so apologetic, he told me what I would learn in the following months – Baptists and Pentecostals in that city accused each other of heretical teaching.
It is now nearly forty years later, and nothing has changed. Indeed, since becoming a Catholic Christian in 2005, I have also learned of the great disunity that exists not only among virtually all Protestant groups, but that also exists between Catholics and Protestants. We continue to eye each other with suspicion and, in some cases, outright animosity.
Sometimes I wonder if anyone remembers Jesus’ warning to His disciples, “An hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me. (John 16:2-3)
And Saint Paul added in his letter to the church at Galatia: (5:14-16) For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think Christians have spent enough time biting and devouring one another. Meanwhile, Satan continues his malicious strut throughout the earth, devouring hundreds of millions of souls – unimpeded by the only force in the universe that can stop him – the Church.
Again, and maybe it’s just me, but maybe we should try something new. Instead of biting and devouring, maybe we should start loving our brothers and sisters bought with the blood of Jesus. Maybe we should focus on areas of doctrine about which we agree – about which ALL Christians agree – doctrines for example synthesized 1500 years ago in what Christians call the Nicene Creed.
As Saint Paul wrote (Romans 14:4-10) Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. . . . For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s . . . . But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.