Alright, put your game face on cuz this is gonna get a little heavy. In my mind the thoughts I'm about to share sound so "liberal". Eeek! It kinda scares me to think I came up with them by myself...or did I? I'm not so sure...never can really trust my own heart, sometimes it plays me for a fool. I expect your responses (whether I actually receive them or not) will come from all ends of the spectrum. That is kind of the point of this post.
So, Bobby, what in the world are you talking about? Convictions. Not the criminal kind but the not so distant cousin of opinions. Everybody's got 'em and those who don't need to get some because without them you are anybody's pawn. Our convictions shape who we are, what we do, what we say, and how we think. They reside near the core of our being, somewhere between our soul and spirit, connecting who we are with what we do.
There is no doubt about it: doctrine matters. Yet, we can all look at the same scripture and draw different conclusions. Is that okay? Can we all have different convictions and passions and still get along? I think so. Actually I think it is more than okay, it is healthy and necessary, especially in the church. Disagreement doesn't necessarily lead to disunity. Contrarily, our disagreements when discussed in love and grace strengthen our bond with one another and display the strength of Christ alone to be what unites us.
Christ is enough. The man, the person, the being, the Lord is enough. Our individual ideas and concepts of who Jesus is are not enough. They fall short and are imperfect and skewed. Christ is much bigger than our doctrine of Christ. We display his sufficiency the most when we are united in Him even though we disagree. We show that we trust in the ever present and soveriegn person and not just our man made conceptions of Him.
It is easy to say we are united in Christ when we have thoroughly "church shopped" and found a confessional statement we agree with and a preacher we can religiously sit under. We can pat ourselves on the back because the structure we have attatched ourselves to makes it seem like we are united in Christ. But all that flies out the window if someone disagrees with the confession or the sermon. It becomes evident that our unity is in Christ as long as you meet certain doctrinal qualifiers. There may be unity, there may be peace, and we may be able to get along very well with each other in that structure but we have also accomplished the systematic shutdown of one of God's ways to bring us to maturity as a body.
I'm all for confessions and doctrines. I'm all for convictions and passion. Like I said, these things define who we are and what we believe and stand for. But what they do not provide is a sufficient basis for unity. That is Christ's place. Therefore one confession should not assume to speak for an entire group of believers. A gathering should not be based on a confessional statement. It should be based on our love for Christ and our love for one another in Christ.
I'm beginning to believe that God wants there to be differences among us. That is why He has purposefully given us different convictions. He wants us to sharpen one another. He wants us to enjoy unity in diversity. He wants us to learn grace. And He wants us to do all this in spite of our differences in order for us to learn to love one another simply because we have Christ in common. Maturity is not defined by our knowledge and understanding of doctrine. It is defined by how well we stand under pressure and still hold fast to our faith when we are shaken. Christian institutions have made it too easy to avoid our differences and thereby prohibited the growth of Christ's members. Therefore I have come to have the opinion that confessional statements actually hinder our unity and maturity in Christ by making things way too tidy. Of course I've seen both sides of this in action so my opinion is both based in experience and in scripture but as with all things in me it is still a work in progress.
What do you think? Do confessional statements have any effect on our maturity? Is it okay for us to have different convictions and passions?