“…‘You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law’” (Acts 21: 20, NIV 2011).
Not long ago I was mentoring a medical student who was struggling with his studies and struggling with his faith. He could not understand the whole concept of Christians who believed in different doctrines. How can they all be right? How can one choose? I spoke to him about Paul and Peter and their experience in Acts 21:17-20. Here we see the incredibly complex beginning of Christian differences. Paul spoke about thousands of Gentile Christians for whom the Jewish law was of little value, who loved the Lord enough to one day die in the Roman coliseums. Peter then spoke about thousands of Jews who followed Jesus and would love him enough to die under Jewish and Roman swords….for whom the Jewish Law was a vital part of their religious practice. I can’t explain how both theologies had found God’s favor but they certainly had.
From my time on the mission field until now, I have bemoaned the fact that so many Christian groups can so dedicate themselves to God’s kingdom and yet fail to cooperate with each other in making “Thy Kingdom come.” Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Baptist, Church of Christ, Pentecostal, high church, low church, African American, Latino, Caucasian, emotional, intellectual and on and on. Each of us holds vitally important beliefs that conflict with vitally important beliefs of other Christ believers. Can God possibly smile on our differences? Maybe so.
We all “see through a glass, darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV). We all glimpse only a small portion of the wonders of our God. Each of us can but see and understand only a small part of God’s truth. Perhaps the eclectic bands of Christians who claim “Jesus is Lord” are but the many fingers on the hand of God---and God is using those fingers to play a beautiful concerto called My Kingdom Come. Perhaps the way God chooses to reach the proper keys at the proper time is with distinct and different fingers.
We are blessed to be part of a world with many different kinds of people with different cultural backgrounds, different life experiences and different ways to learn. Some grow up loving God while clapping and shouting, while others grow up within the depths of beautiful ritual. God has allowed each of us to gather with bodies of believers where our life language is spoken, where we can find Jesus, where we can best worship and where we can best prepare to accomplish the mission for which we have been created.
Salvation comes through God’s hand and mission through His fingers. Perhaps this is God’s way to bring a lost world home. Perhaps God only becomes unhappy at our differences when the fingers start fighting each other instead of playing the notes that they have been assigned.
None of us are totally right about our theology but we can all be totally right about the one who is Lord. And we can all work together to insure that His magnificent concerto is completed.
Let me hold on to your truths the best I can discern them and work with all who love you to bring about your kingdom.Amen