Have you ever noticed how Christians can’t agree on anything? Why do you think that is? We can’t agree on the means on which someone is saved, how somebody is saved, and, even by who they are saved. We can’t agree on the purpose of the cross. We don’t agree on whether or not the resurrection was an actual event or has metaphorical value. We can’t agree on whether or not heaven and hell exist, and, in which dimensions it does exist.
Have you ever noticed that Christians aren’t very good at treating those who aren’t like them very well, or, even each other very well? Gaby Lyons and David Kinnaman, part of the Barna group, paint this picture very well in the book UnChristian. They found in their surveys that those outside of Christian faith have found us Judgmental (87%), Hypocritical (85%), Old Fashioned (78%), are too political (75%).
One of the most important books in Christianity to come out in the past 20 years is a book called The Gospel in A Pluralist Society by Lesslie Newbigin. Newbigin goes into what it looks like for a Christian to live inside a cultural context that is deeply diverse and is increasingly relativistic. Newbigin’s main agenda is to teach us how to maintain Christian identity in an increasingly plural context.
I have gone to Evangelical churches my whole life. Most of my childhood was spent in an Evangelical Church, my teenage years were spent in a Christian Missionary Alliance church. I spent a few years at a Non-Denominational Church that separated for a few doctrinal reasons and because women couldn’t be pastors but had previous ties to the Christian Missionary Alliance. I am now at a Covenant church.
Like most people, I have a love/hate relationship with my tradition of origin. I see the UnChristian values in Evangelicalism. I do not like how sexist Evangelicals have been at times. I do not like how overly political we are. I do not like how we treat homosexuals. I do not like how we are probably the most violent and spiritually abusive tradition because of our foundation on Biblical Hermeneutics. However, I have been rooted, am rooted, and, will probably always be rooted in an Evangelical context.
With my grounding in Evangelicalism, in historical Orthodoxy, I know that I have also been deeply changed by other demographics within Christianity. Three years ago, I have a glorious love affair with the Mennonites. I am a big fan of Social Justice, Christ centered understandings of Biblical Hermeneutics, and non-violence, as anyone who knows my story knows how much violence has had a huge impact on my life. Within, the last year or two, I have developed an increasingly awe and appreciation of mystery and the human experience. I have seen my life become rooted in Catholic mysticism. My life has been changed by the teachings of spiritual teachers like Brennan Manning, Richard Rohr and Henri Nouwen.
When I look at the Bible, I don’t see an exclusionary God. I see a God who welcomes all. He welcomes all traditions. One of the most memorable, of many, times where Jesus gets upset with the Disciples, is in Mark 9, he says:
38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.
In the beginning of the Church, we see a great confrontation between the Jews and Gentiles because the Christian Jews to practice Christian faith in their Jewish context. In Acts 10, you see God appear to Peter in a dream and reveal him the extent of his lack of favoritism. Peter than gives a powerful message about the effectiveness of the holy spirit, even in the Gentiles. Five chapters later, we see Paul and Barnabas as part of a council that rules that the Gentiles can practice their faith however they want, outside of a few eating practices and sexual immorality.
What I believe to be true is this. When two or more show up, the Holy Spirit is present. Therefore, Theology and Christian living is a communal event. We learn to live with each other. We learn how to worship together. We learn how to love each other and others, together. So, when we don’t have the same answers Theologically or Philosophically, it is our love for each other that draws us in to listen, because, we want to know the God that is transforming them.
The answer to God isn’t found in a singular answer or interpretation, but, it in a multiplicity of them. One is not God, because God destroys the boxes we create for him. But, all is not God, because then all becomes gods. It is in our friendship and love for each other, as well, in our difference with each other that we are able to encounter a much more vibrant, larger, and living God. If there is anything that is true, it is that those who are seeking, will find.
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you..