Weekly Thought – May 26, 2020
Fred wrote and thought much about relationships. Last week we introduced his thinking on the excellence of them. We continue this week with thoughts about a critical challenge: religious differences between friends.
Thank you for praying as we bring Fred’s wisdom to you.
Faith and Friendships
Religious differences can test our friendships, even to straining the quality of the relationship. It can be the most volatile factor of sustaining a long term connection.
The knowledge of God’s will, the interpretation of God’s Word, loyal ties to an institution, along with traditions of denomination and family combine to create intensity in our beliefs and opinions which affect our relation with others.
It is easy to generalize our unique relation with God into a pattern for everyone else. When our faith walk leads us to believe we know the will of God, we can unconsciously come to apply that knowledge to ourselves, but to others, as well. Young friends of mine used to parody the Four Spiritual Laws of Campus Crusade by saying “I love you and have a wonderful plan for your life.” This can definitely throw a clinker into a friendship.
I have signed many “statements of faith” holding forth the tenets of New Testament dogma. I have never seen one featuring these words: “I am currently living in love with my fellow Christians and will continue to do so as tenaciously as I hold the other points of doctrine.”
Often we find it much easier to fight for the faith than to exemplify it. Our relationships illustrate our real beliefs. The non-Christian world of the first century would say, “Behold the love they have for one another.” Even the keeping of Christ’s commandments was predicated on love: “If you love me, keep my commandments.” In the early days of Christian contemporary music a Catholic priest named Peter Scholtes composed a song which became an anthem for the 1960s Jesus movement: “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love.” It was sung by long-haired youth, and three-pieced suited businessmen.
The only genuine ecumenism is based on love first before organizational unity. Doctrinal harmony is critical, but making sure it is core dogma and not just preference is an outworking of love.
Often when some of my more ardent doctrinal friends criticize other Christians, I ask them: “Do you think they are going to heaven?” This usually stops them for awhile and even with hesitation they say, “Certainly. Why?” Then I give them my simplistic conclusion: “If they are going to heaven, they are part of the body of Christ and I have no option as to whether or not to associate with them and to love them. We are part of the same family.”
Therefore, excellence in friendships (especially long term ones with diverse religious backgrounds) requires a purposeful effort to practice love, seeing others without personal filters as the only answer (as much as possible).
This week carefully think about: 1) How many friends do I have who hold dissimilar religious traditions? 2) What can I do this week to focus on loving and not judging? 3) When does oneness in Christ become real to me?
Words of Wisdom: “The only genuine ecumenism is based on love first before organizational unity.”
Wisdom from the Word: “The one who loves his fellow Christian resides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.” (1 John 2:10 NET Bible)