Being Mere Christians

Let’s talk Christian unity. Let’s focus on what we all have in common if we name the name of Christ as our Savior and Lord.

I am not a Roman Catholic. There are doctrines and practices of the Catholic church with which I am not in agreement. I don’t consider the pope to be my spiritual authority, I don’t adhere to a belief in transubstantiation when I take Communion/Lord’s Supper/Eucharist. I’m concerned about the adoration given to Mary quite often.

Yet I know that Catholic teaching on the deity of Jesus and the meaning of His sacrifice for us is the same as mine. Only through faith in Jesus does anyone become a child of God and a citizen of heaven.

I have worked alongside Catholics whom I consider brothers and sisters in the Lord. I expect we will all be together when this earthly life has ended.

I am not of the Reformed Protestant persuasion. The theological system devised by Calvin and those who have followed him is not mine. Specifically, I don’t accept the idea that God predestines some to salvation and others to damnation.

Yet I know that Reformed people believe as I do that Jesus is the Son of God and that only through Him can anyone be saved.

I have worked, and still do, with those who are Reformed and I know their faith is genuine despite our differences on how to explain it. We will be standing side by side in heaven.

I am not a Quaker. I don’t believe that baptism and communion are insignificant and should be set aside as unnecessary outward forms. I can’t accept pacifism as scriptural.

Yet Quakers worship the same Jesus that I do. He is God, and all are called to bow the knee to Him as Lord.

The Quaker William Penn, who suffered imprisonment for his faith, later was able to start a colony, aptly named Pennsylvania, in which all varieties of Christians were welcome. In a letter he wrote to a friend in 1688, Penn first of all commented on how one should look to God alone for what one believes and not be swayed by what others think:

It is now above twenty years, I thank God, that I have not been very solicitous what the World thought of me. . . .

The first and main point with me has been to approve myself in the sight of God, through patience and well-doing: so that the World has not had weight enough with me, to suffer its good opinion to raise me, or its ill opinion to deject me.

Summary: I stand before God with my conscience clear about what I believe, and I’m only concerned with pleasing God, not men. I’m not looking for the world’s favor to make me feel good; neither will its disfavor make me unhappy.

That’s called liberty of conscience before God, knowing what one believes and why one believes it, and recognizing that God will be your only judge ultimately.

Then Penn goes on with respect to how Christians from different theological perspectives ought to treat one another:

He that suffers his difference with his neighbor about the other world, to carry him beyond the line of moderation in this, is the worse for his opinion, even though it be true.

In other words, your theological perspective and your specific doctrines may actually be the correct ones, yet if you go beyond “moderation” in how you interact with those who disagree, what does that profit spiritually? You may be right, but you have exhibited a very unchristian spirit in the manner in which you assert your beliefs. It’s one thing to be doctrinally right, but what gain is that if you are arrogant and judgmental in your dealing with others?

Penn concludes with words that stir my soul:

Since all . . . parties profess to believe in God, Christ, the Spirit, and Scripture, that the soul is immortal, that there are eternal rewards and punishments, and that the virtuous shall receive the one, and the wicked suffer the other: I say, since this is the common faith of Christendom, let us all resolve in the strength of God to live up to what we agree in, before we fall out so miserably about the rest in which we differ.

When all of us eventually stand in the presence of God and all becomes clear, I doubt whether any of us will be able to say we were correct on all points. Neither will it matter to us on that Day. We will, instead, be one in Him, regardless of what we called ourselves on earth.

If we are all going to be one at that time, shouldn’t we begin practicing that oneness now? We have so much on which we agree; let’s concentrate on that agreement and be the mere Christians God intends for us to be.