Sunday, 28 November 2010

So What if They're Wrong; Love Anyways

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons
I was reading this morning in 1 Peter 2: 13-25 and came across the following verse: "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution" (ESV, vs 13). I think that I'm starting to see this in a whole new light. There was a time when I would be quick to argue my point of view with anyone and any institution, especially if I thought they were wrong or if I believed that they somehow wronged me. But now we see Peter saying that we need to be subject to EVERY human institution.

The word EVERY would have to include ALL places where people gather for business, recreational, or religious purposes. This would have to include everything from banks to utility companies, from grocery stores to government departments, from sports arenas to church buildings. EVERY HUMAN INSTITUTION. (Notice that I've included churches in the list. This is because of my belief that they have also long since become HUMAN institutions.  See elsewhere on this blog for more on that).

Why? The same verse gives us the answer; "For the Lord's sake." Now, this begs another question. What if that institution is wrong? First of all, right or wrong is often (but not always) subjective in that it is in the eyes of the beholder.

Someone will say that they will no longer have anything to do with a certain phone company, for example. They would argue that that company has somehow wronged them. Well have they? Maybe and maybe not. Either way, that is not even the point. Another person will say that a certain church is wrong and so they will either begin the endless quest to find a "right" church, or they will quit going all together. So was that church wrong and is the person right in their view? Again, that is not the point. If it were the point, this simply shows that we care more about our rights and our being in the right, rather than what God's Word says about such things.

We have to remember that Jesus Himself took this approach with the human institutions of His day; Jesus was SUBJECT to them. Why? That God might be glorified and His will might be done.
There will always be those who think differently.
That must also be our reason for doing likewise. As much as I want to have my rights met, and as much as I may want to fight and argue for what I believe is a right doctrine, there will always be those who think differently. Think about that statement for a moment; there will always be those who think differently. That means that if I always insist on having my rights met and arguing over right versus (perceived) wrong doctrines, then I will always be in a state or arguing and fighting and I will never totally be in peace.

Having said that, there are some doctrines that are key and non-negotiable when it comes to defining a true Christian faith from a pseudo or false faith. Many years ago the early church tried to list these. There were twelve on that list, that some Christian groups today still regularly recite. This list, or confession, came to be known as "The Apostles Creed." It reads:
(1) I believe in God the Father, Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, (2) and in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord, (3) who was conceived  by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, (4) suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; He decended into Hell. (5) The third day He rose again from the dead, (6) He ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. (7) From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. (8) I believe in the Holy Ghost. (9) I believe in the holy catholic church; the communion of saints, (10) the forgiveness of sins, (11) the resurrection of the body, (12) and life everlasting. Amen. (As an aside, notice in point 9 that the lower case as opposed to the upper case is used in catholic church. This is because traditionally upper case refers to the Roman Catholic Church, as the name of an institution. Here lower case is used because we are not refering to that institution, but rather to the universal or orthodox church, for which we would only use the lower case script).
These are the non-negotiables of the faith. Does this then make it OK to fight and argue with those who think differently on these points? No. A thousand times, No! Why? Because as 1 Corinthians 7:15 says, "God has called you to peace."  Likewise 1 Timothy 2:2 says, "That we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way." Then too, Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 6:7, "Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?" (ESV). This begs an interesting question, is a true Christian a pacifist? Still, even pacifism can be a doctrinal view.
Should doctrines even be publicly shared?
I've long since started to view all doctrines as a private matter between myself and Heavenly Father. This is supported by Romans 14:22 which says, "The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God." With everyone else, strive to just practice LOVE. If we haven't got love, then it doesn't matter what we believe anyways, because God calls us first to love (see Greatest Commandment, Matthew 22: 34-40). Anything that doesn't first involve love is just noise (1 Corinthians 13:1). Ultimately, all that doctrines do is divide and faction the Body of Christ. Why? Because we ALL have such difficulty with the Greatest Commandment to truly love one another. As long as that is true, doctrines will always divide and faction the church.

Back to our passage in 1 Peter 2. "Honor everyone" (verse 17), regardless if we perceive them to be right or wrong, just of unjust (verse 18). "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14, ESV).
Why? For "the Lord's sake" (1 Peter 2:13). 
One would think that that alone would be a good enough reason. It certainly was a good enough reason for Jesus when He faced all the wrongs of His day. Despite all His innocence and despite all that He suffered, He still subjected Himself to every human institution in obedience to Heavenly Father's will. Can we strive to do likewise, for the Lord's sake? I wonder.

Anyway, that's the way I see it. Peace.

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