When I was growing up, I would be asked what church I went to. I would respond with “church of Christ”. Their reaction to such an answer would hurt, terribly. “Aren’t you guys the ones that think you are the only ones going to heaven?”
Did we really have that reputation? Were we the only ones to have that reputation? Being so consumed with our self-righteousness that we couldn’t see how we were being thought of by others.
As I have gotten older and had the chance to visit with many people from many different denominations, I have found that the church of Christ isn’t the only group that suffers from such a stigma from time to time. I have also found out that as with many organizations, a few bad apples create such a stench that others cannot smell the pleasing aroma of health from the other apples.
Fortunately, this is not the case for the majority of churches.
This does, however bring up a problem that really needs to be discussed. The apostle Paul noted such a problem when he wrote 1 Corinthians. In Chapter 8, verse 1, he says:
“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely experienced the truth of this statement. Often we are quick to get into arguments about the correctness of certain doctrines or traditions. We want to be right, and we study diligently to be correct in our understanding of scripture.
So we work hard to have knowledge, but in doing so it is easy for us to become like the Corinthian church. They were arguing about what to eat and who baptized whom and who had the best spiritual gifts. But in the midst of trying to be the most correct, they lost sight of the most important thing – Love.
At the end of the “love chapter”, 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says that three things remain, faith, hope and love, “but the greatest of these is love”.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commands were, he gave the same answer, love. Love God, and love your neighbor. And use every resource you have to do both. Back in 1 Corinthians 8:3, Paul says that those who love God are known by God. I think it’d be a wonderful accomplishment to be known by God. But I can’t do it by correct doctrines and traditions. I have to do it by love.
James and John put faith and love together. John, in 1 John, says that if you don’t love your brother whom you have seen, you can’t love God whom you haven’t seen. James says that if you use your words to “love” someone but do not actually help them out, then that’s not faith.
So I guess all this boils down to one question. Are you going to allow your knowledge and persistence in that knowledge to hinder your ability to love, or are you going to love first?
I am not saying that there is no place for knowledge. I want us all to be thinkers and to use that knowledge for good, but when that knowledge hinders us from love…real love…then we’ve missed the point altogether.
The puffed up spirit is what splits churches and drives new members away. But love…love draws people in and creates a spirit of acceptance and allows us to bask in the love that God has for us.
I hope that you are in a loving place and that you are loving others. I am glad to be in a loving church. I am also glad to have the opportunity to show love to you as I get the chance.