I’ve shared with some friends a concern I have about attitudes I see in our churches. Worse, these are attitudes that I see in me.
On the one hand, there are areas in which I’ve become uncomfortable with traditional interpretations and longstanding traditions. I’ve come to see things in a different way. If I’m not comfortable, I communicate those things poorly, coming across as: “If you were truly enlightened, you would understand this issue as I do.”
In other areas, I play the exact opposite role. I grow frustrated with those who seem more interested in criticizing and rejecting than they are in actually evaluating the status quo. I look on in dismay as they seem to dismiss God’s Word in an attempt to conform to culture. On my worst days, I communicate the idea that I stand for truth while they are promoting heresy.
If I’m not careful, in each case I put the emphasis on knowledge, rather than on love. Which is something that is directly addressed in the New Testament:
“We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.”
(1 Corinthians 8:1–2)
There is no need to stand idly by while the church drifts away from what is most pleasing to God. Nor is there an obligation to kowtow to legalism in order to please the overly sensitive. However, there is a great need for humility, for entering every discussion with the recognition that we may be mistaken in some way.
I had a roommate in college that I only shared a room with for one semester. One Sunday, the speaker at church made a reference to unwritten creeds. My roommate was reflecting on that idea later, and he said, “Our only creed is the Bible. When we need to know something, we consult it. We’re always going to find the same thing, but we consult it anyway.” And that last line states the problem well.
One of our teammates in Argentina described what he had found upon visiting his supporting church while home on furlough. They had a new preacher, a man who had been blessed to learn everything learnable during his 35-year lifetime. The man had written a book on biblical interpretation. My teammate asked him if there was any chance that he was wrong about anything in that book. When the man replied that there was no such chance, my teammate said, “Then there’s no point in our discussing the Bible.”
When we enter a discussion with our minds made up, then it can hardly be called a discussion. When we think that truth begins and ends with us, then we will spread division everywhere we go. When we value our knowledge above our love for others, then that knowledge will never equal truth.
I shared the following short prayer with those friends on Facebook:
Father, help me to value love over knowledge! And especially help me to love those who know more than I do.
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