Consider the words of Paul in Ephesians 2:11-22. In these verses he calls for unity among ALL believers. Not just those who agree with you. ALL believers. Remember, not everyone is of the same maturity level as you. Some are above you, and some below. Some have a clearer understanding of scripture in one area that to another is confusing, and some have a general understanding of all scripture, but not the deep knowledge of someone else right beside them. There's also 1 Corinthians 8 where Paul talks about the weaker brother. How many of you really view those you disagree with as the weaker brother or sister?
Think about it. We're all different people, we all have different understandings of the things around us, and we all possess different, unique, desperate knowledge of our world and the scriptures. Even so we all, those who are saved, born again believers, have ONE GOD, and He is the same yesterday, today and forever. It's not Him that's the problem. It's us. He hasn't changed. We just haven't caught up to where He's at. Sure, it's one thing if someone's in obvious heresy or living in clear, unquestioned sin. But let me ask you this. Have you approached these problems in view of these problems simply being a lack of understanding and education on the part of the individual, or do you treat it as willful sin and/or heresy?
I ask because too often people are more ready to jump to conclusions and slap labels on everything they see BEFORE getting to know the person and what they understand and/or believe. As such, since we are not God and we can't know a person's heart or their thoughts, we must in turn be careful in discerning between what is willful, and what is merely a lack of understanding. As I described in one of my blog posts before, true heresy is "I know this is wrong, but I'll say and do it anyways." Simple misunderstanding or lack of knowledge is, "I believe this to be true as it's all I know." In the vast majority of cases, the latter is more true than the fore.
As such, most of the people we label as "heretics" aren't really heretics. Now we may not use that word directly anymore, but we certainly imply its meaning in what we say and do towards them. For example, let's say someone only believes in infant baptism, but you believe in the proper method of baptizing a person, which is full immersion. Do you call them a heretic? Not directly. Most will either ignore or ostracize the person, or even roast them like a steak on a charcoal fire. Yet that's not the right way to do it. We are to do all things in love. So how is roasting someone over their beliefs loving?
Another thing to consider, and I believe this comes from Chuck Swindol, is to look at how you handle the situation when confronting someone over what you believe to be a spiritual error on their part. Do we do it like the Islamic radicals who say "do it our way or lose your head!!" or do we do it like Daniel did when king Nebuchadnezzar threatened to kill him and all the other wise men because a few of his contemporaries couldn't perform when the king asked? Or even the three boys in the next chapter when facing down the king over not bowing to the statue of gold.
For those who don't know what I'm talking about, look at Daniel, chapters 2 and 3. In two, Daniel very kindly, lovingly and respectfully not only petitions the king for more time for himself, he even pleads for the lives of the very guys who got him and the others into that situation! He didn't throw them under the bus (or the camel in their case) to save his neck or that of his buddies, nor did he accost those who came to take him away to be executed. He did it all very kindly, very considerably, and respectfully. It wasn't, "How dare you filthy Babylonians touch the Lord's anointed! Thou shalt be smitten to the ground!"
No! What did he say and do? He very respectfully went to bat for EVERYONE, even putting his own life on the line, even for people he was in clear disagreement with spiritually. And yet the moment we have a disagreement with someone over something in the bible, and what is our first reaction? Haul out the heavy hardware and carpet bomb the suckers into submission! Really, think about that. As one author so aptly put it, "We Christians are guilty of shooting our wounded." Another quote to consider is this. "He who shouts the loudest believes the least and doubts the most."
Think about that one for a bit. Did Daniel shout at the king, or the guards, or really anyone? No! Why? Because he believed and trusted in his God. Did the three boys who were with him shout at the king when faced with death by fiery furnace? Nope, not one bit. They respectfully told the king, and boldly I might add, that they would not bow to the king, or serve his gods, or defy God in any way. Even so, even though they told the king that they would not obey his commandment, they still did it in love and with great respect. Yet what do we automatically do? The moment someone disagrees with us, out come the big guns and the bodies start falling!
I'm sorry, but that's not how we should be. And I admit I'm guilty of it as well, so I can't point an innocent finger at you and say "you dirty, filthy sinner" when I've got must as much blood on my hands as the next person. But that doesn't preclude all of us from putting down the guns, putting down the bombs, and start treating others with love. If you're a saved, born again believer, we're family, and real family doesn't try to kill each other over simple disagreements. Real family loves one another and tries to work out all differences, to resolve all confusion, to lovingly correct each other's understandings, and so on.
In many ways we have become like the church in Ephesus who has lost their first love. We need to go back to that, to that love we had for each other at one time as a church, a family, a body of believers. If we truly love the Lord, and we love one another, we should act like it. Also, going back to that comment about "He who shouts the loudest believes the least and doubts the most.", I think part of our problem today is with our lack of prayerfulness and especially good, true bible knowledge. The less we know, the less certain of our faith we are, and the more likely we are to shout it rather than share it.
And I'm not talking about shouting praises to God or shouting with joy. I'm talking about getting loud and obnoxious when talking with someone else about what you believe. The reason you shout and get loud when discussing things, or in reality arguing, is because you're trying to convince yourself more of what you believe than the other person. If you truly, honestly believe deep down in your heart everything you're saying, shouting won't happen, nor will it be necessary. But if you don't, then the likelihood of shouting goes up exponentially. Again, I take that from both the bible, and my own experience.
The less I honestly believed something, the more likely I was to raise my voice and even shout it, argue it, etc. But for the things I believed, I quite often stayed calm, quiet, controlled, and very well mannered. The same is true when it comes to our faith. The more strongly we believe, the more quiet and loving we will become when sharing the truth we know and understand. And it's not our flesh talking in this situation. It's the Holy Spirit talking to our spirit, and even though in thought we may say and believe one thing, the Spirit will unsettle us in a way that, if we're willing to listen, will tell us that something isn't right.
It's sorta like the lie detector tests they've given people for years. When they say something they truly believe, they are calm, cool, and collected. But the moment a question comes up that they have any doubt about, it is immediately reflected in the tests. The same is true with our interactions with others. The stronger our belief, the calmer we are. The weaker it is, the louder we are. Once more I will say, consider that as you go about your day. What things are you settled firmly on in your faith, and what things do you still struggle with? Consider that the next time to go to crucify a fellow believer simply because they don't believe as you do.
Is it possible that they are the weaker brother who needs your help in growing stronger, or perhaps are you the one who actually needs help growing? Remember, sometimes they're the weaker brother, and sometimes it's you. Even so, all of us are in some degree the weaker brother, even the strongest among us. So stop shooting the wounded and start helping them. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the change. :)