I had a great response to my column last week, but the comments only reinforced that most completely missed the point. While I wrote it from the perspective of being a Catholic and a Christian, the point was that we shouldn’t be fighting each other. Instead of taking the main lesson of the piece, most nitpicked the minutiae or told me everything that was wrong with my church. As we head into the holiest week of the Christian calendar, every Christian needs to remember that when we fight each other we aren’t acting like Christ.
Webster’s Dictionary defines a Christian as “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.” At the core of all Christian churches or beliefs, this is the most basic: Jesus Christ is God’s Son become man (Philippians 2:1-11), and died for the sins of all people (1 John 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:14; 1 Peter 2:24). Those who accept Him will live for eternity with Him after they die (John 11:25, 26; 2 Corinthians 5:6). Whether you are Catholic, Methodist, Episcopalian, Baptist, Pentecostal or any of the other numerous denominations, this is the basis of your faith.
This Sunday we begin Holy Week. Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. His followers then were not so different from many of His followers now. When the going got tough, they turned on Him. Ah, I can hear the outrage now “TURN ON HIM?!? HOW DARE YOU!” Oh, I dare, because when you attack other Christians that’s exactly what you are doing.
Jesus never told us to attack each other. He told us to follow the greatest commandment: “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:36-39.
Not “Love your neighbor as yourself only if they attend your church or believe in me”, not attack those who differ from you with hate and harsh words. He commanded us to love each other without exception or reservation!
The quibbling and misunderstandings about things such as how one church celebrates the sacraments differently than another, or even has sacraments in the “traditional” sense is, for lack of a better word, stupid. It’s like the Pharisees and Sadducees trying to trick Christ into saying the Law of Moses doesn’t matter, or condemning Him for healing on the Sabbath. The “Law” isn’t and shouldn’t be above faith.
When you put yourself above another because of how you worship, it is pride and hypocrisy at its worst. Every church or denomination is guilty, and I am by no means exempting my own Church. As I said more than once last week, if you don’t like the doctrine of one church, go to another. Don’t tear down those who choose to stay.
The world is full of evil, and whether you believe in Satan or just the concept of evil, when we fight each other, we certainly aren’t working towards stopping evil. The energy that was put towards arguing semantics and practices with me could have been better put toward fighting against policies that further hate. Christ told us to love each other. He told us to help the poor, have mercy and protect the weak. He told us to spread His word. I don’t expect that everyone will agree on how to do that, after all the early Church didn’t either. What we should expect from each other is love, support and fellowship, regardless of where or how we choose to demonstrate our faith.
As last Sunday’s Gospel from John said “let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.” So if you have the perfect church with all of the most perfect understanding and practices, great, fire away. Until then, we humans are fallible, so our worship and churches aren’t going to be perfect. Instead of tearing each other down, shouldn’t we be helping everyone up?