Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.
~ Romans 14:1 (NIV)
Our minds are irretrievably clouded by our human nature. We are rendered imperfect by original sin, and we will not be perfected during this lifetime. There are some Bible verses that speak of our being “perfect” during our lives, through the grace of God in Jesus Christ, but both Philippians and 1 Corinthians make it clear that our true perfection — in the sense of being righteous before God and able to understand Him fully — comes only after death. (E.g. 1 Cor. 13:12)
Our faith, similarly, is imperfect. Apparently, even imperfect faith in Christ will save us, for Christ’s perfect faith remitted all of our sins. When the apostles asked Christ why they were unable to drive out a demon, He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)
Why, then, do we think our opinions about Christianity are right, and the opinions of others are wrong? For most of us do exactly what Romans 14:1 tells us not to do. We pass judgment on others’ faith. We refuse to accept others as Christian brothers and sisters because our own ideas disagree with their ideas.
Why are there so many different denominations of Christianity? Why, in fact, are there any? Because we are foolish and weak in faith. Let’s take a really bitter controversy as an example. Say, 1 Corinthians 14:34. “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.” In light of this, should women today be priests or pastors?
This person says, “the New Testament writers passively accepted the oppression of women, [but] it does not imply that a leadership role for a woman would be wrong in today's very different society.” (For a full argument, see here.)
That person says, “the Bible is the Word of God, and God says that priests/pastors should be male. He does not mention societal values. To the contrary, He says, ‘Do not be conformed to this age (or this world).” We should not seek to change the Bible to conform to our beliefs or the values of society, but rather, conform our beliefs to the Bible.’ (For a full argument, see here.)
If you believe that one of these arguments is correct, you are a fool. (Like me.)
But understanding that we are fools is not a bar to salvation, but rather, a step towards our perfection in Christ. This leaps out at us when we read one of my personal favorite Bible passages, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. (I suggest you read this passage now.)
Our first step to understanding God is to admit that we are utter fools and do not know the answer to most disputed questions, at least within the church. Will you judge the beliefs of Episcopalians, or Catholics, or Baptists, or Mormons? All of them confess Christ as the sole source of salvation! When did God make me the judge of other peoples’ salvation? Or for that matter, my own? Let me take out the beam in my own eye; then I will be able to see clearly enough to judge the speck in my neighbors’ eye.
Lord, let me accept my brothers and sisters in Christ instead of judging them. Remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy so that we may share his wisdom when he comes in glory. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.In Jesus,
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Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Devotion by Mason Barge, Editor, Daily Prayer.
Why are there so many different denominations of Christianity?