[I was a bit hesitant to post the following article, but did because the overall message is good and pertinent.
Most, perhaps all, of those of us who are Christians at The QTree have some doctrinal differences between us, but we can’t let minor doctrinal differences divide us.
In the essentials – Unity;
in the non-essentials – Liberty;
and in all things – Charity (agapé love).
The difficulty lies in the specifics of what a person considers to be the essentials and non-essentials of the Christian faith. I’ll certainly not even attempt to resolve that issue here, although I believe that a true statement of faith can be quite brief.
In the following article, this issue would be addressed in the specific definition of a “fellow with a pure heart,” a definition that is not provided.]
A Christian brother was upset with me. So upset that he was considering rescinding his invitation for me to speak to his group. Seems he’d heard I was pretty open about who I have fellowship with. He’d read the words I wrote: “If God calls a person his child, shouldn’t I call him my brother?” And, “If God accepts others with their errors and misinterpretations, shouldn’t we?”
He didn’t like that. “Carrying it a bit too far,” he told me. “Fences are necessary,” he explained. “Scriptures are clear on such matters.” He read me a few and then urged me to be careful to whom I give grace.
“I don’t give it,” I assured. “I only spotlight where God already has.”
I hope to see him today. If the subject resurfaces, I’ll give him a thought that came to me. But in case it doesn’t, I’ll say it to you. (It’s too good to waste.) Just one sentence:
I’ve never been surprised by God’s judgment,
but I’m still stunned by his grace.
God’s judgment has never been a problem for me. In fact, it always seemed right. Lightning bolts on Sodom. Fire on Gomorrah. Good job, God. Egyptians swallowed in the Red Sea. They had it coming. Forty years of wandering to loosen the stiff necks of the Israelites? Would’ve done it myself. Ananias and Sapphira? You bet.
Discipline is easy for me to swallow. Logical to assimilate. Manageable and appropriate. But God’s grace? Anything but. Examples? How much time do you have?
David the psalmist becomes David the voyeur [and adulterer and murderer], but by God’s grace becomes David the psalmist again.
Peter denied Christ before he preached Christ.
Zacchaeus, the crook. The cleanest part of his life was the money he’d laundered. But Jesus still had time for him.
The thief on the cross: hellbent and hung-out-to-die one minute, heaven-bound and smiling the next.
Story after story. Prayer after prayer. Surprise after surprise.
Seems that God is looking more for ways to get us home than for ways to keep us out. I challenge you to find one soul who came to God seeking grace and did not find it. Search the pages [of the Bible]. Read the stories. Envision the encounters. Find one person who came seeking a second chance and left with a stern lecture. I dare you. Search. You won’t find it.
You will find a strayed sheep on the other side of the creek. He’s lost. He knows it. He’s stuck and embarrassed. What will the other sheep say? What will the shepherd say?
You will find a shepherd who finds him. (Luke 15:3-7)
Oh boy. Duck down. Put hooves over the eyes. The belt is about to fly. But the belt is never felt. Just hands. Large, open hands reaching under his body and lifting the sheep up, up, up until he’s placed upon the shepherd’s shoulders. He’s carried back to the flock and given a party! “Cut the grass and comb the wool,” he announces. “We are going to have a celebration!”
The other sheep shake their heads in disbelief. Just like we will. At our party. When we get home. When we watch the Shepherd shoulder into our midst one unlikely soul after another.
Seems to me God gives a lot more grace than we’d ever imagine. We could do the same.
I’m not for watering down the truth or compromising the gospel. But if a fellow with a pure heart calls God Father, can’t I call that same man Brother? If God doesn’t make doctrinal perfection a requirement for family membership, should I?
And if we never agree, can’t we agree to disagree? If God can tolerate my mistakes, can’t I tolerate the mistakes of others? If God can overlook my errors, can’t I overlook the errors of others? If God allows me with my foibles and failures to call him Father, shouldn’t I extend the same grace to others?
One thing’s for sure. When we get to heaven, we’ll be surprised at some of the folks we see. And some of them will be surprised to see us.