Do you love your church?
Every church is distinct, and it’s likely that you find those distinctions highly appealing. In fact, some of those details might be why you attend that particular church.
But do you find yourself telling others about what style of music your church plays during worship, how many small groups are available, and how many people attend service each week? In other words, are you inclined to compare your church to others in town?
I believe churches today are highly sectarian and nationalistic, more divided up than the Balkan region. We examine subtle differences between bodies of believers — everything from whether Scripture is taught line-by-line or topically, to if communion occurs during worship time or afterward — and under our breath we take potshots at each other over it.
The subtle differences between us make us distinct, yet these differences can often times be a foothold for prejudice, and worse, cripple our effectiveness in delivering the gospel without looking like sectarian phonies.
I wholeheartedly believe that, as long as we have differences in creed or conviction, we will always have prejudice and war in our society. But in the context of church, these distinctions should remain as such, not as reasons to disassociate with or undercut one another.
In the Scripture in question, the Jewish leaders accuse Jesus of being two things:
1) a devil
2) a Samaritan
The first accusation seems ridiculous, and we understand it in a modern context. We’d all be a little sensitive if someone accused us of being a devil. Jesus promptly denies this label and channels all glory to the Father, which clearly irritates the Jews.
The other accusation is most familiar to us from a parable regarding doing good deeds without discrimination. Jesus reveres the Samaritan who, despite obvious social and religious disparities, helps another in need, considering how the man might have ended up if yet another passed him by.
In John 4, Jesus talks to an adulterous woman at a well who happens to be a Samaritan. The Jews frowned upon the practice of associating with Samaritans, yet Jesus insists on ministering to her.
In Luke, Jesus is denied permission to help out a Samaritan village because the people wanted nothing to do with the Jewish folk, but makes no scene about it, recognizing their discomfort with the Jews and their prejudiced mentality.
Jesus’ perspective on the Jewish and Samaritan relationship is constantly shown as inverted, if not neutralized. How come?
I think it’s because Jesus doesn’t care. And if Jesus doesn’t care, why should I?
Now, I’m a HUGE fan of sound doctrine. If the gospel is distorted, if Christ is not Lord, and if the Word is not the precedent, then I throw it out. If I see shenanigans, I’ll call it — in fact, there are several doctrines that are quite destructive, many of which I’ve addressed in this blog.
But is our desire to be correct more important than our functionality as a body of believers? Think about what would happen if the two largest churches in your city — in our case, the two largest are relatively similar in doctrine — unified and cooperated as one. Major awesomeness would ensue, without doubt.
Sure, keep your church, but let’s stop squabbling over who has the best summer youth events and start pooling our resources to reach the lost. I think everyone would be better off that way, especially those hungry for an authentic, non-competitive version of the gospel.