The Rev. John McFarland, pastor, Christ Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church, 2312 Harvard Road:
One response: It depends what one means. But let’s start there, with one.
“Hear, O Israel (those with whom God chooses to wrestle), the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” But the continuing message of the one book that is 66 books is that God is three … in such a way that he remains one. God made man (singular) male and female (plural), then promised to bless all nations (plural) through the one “seed” of Abraham. “Seed” itself is a singular/plural word, so is the world to be blessed through the children of Israel (plural) or the eternal son of God (singular)? Yes! One must press on.
We know we are individuals, with unique thoughts and needs. But the primary need of man continues to be having a way to be safely and blessedly connected with the holy God. That common need is magnified by our common problem of sin. God paid much to make this clear: “There is one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all.”
This one Lord of Ephesians 4:5, Paul tells us in 1:2, is the Lord Jesus Christ. That one famously claimed: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the father, except through me.”
Logic demands if the Lord is not communicating precise truth there, he is a liar or lunatic, not to be minded for anything. If Jesus is wrong, such that there are actually many ways/faiths to have eternal life with God, then Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was a waste.
Few are ready to say that out loud, yet few are eager to “bend the knee and kiss the son.” But, one wonders, is that defiant non-faith fitting?
— Send e-mail to John McFarland at email@example.com.
The Rev. Matt Cox, pastor, EastLake Community Church, 2734 La. (South Junior High):
While God has a specific design when it comes to the essentials of trusting in and following Jesus, there must be liberty when it comes to nonessential style issues and understanding of a person’s unique abilities and personality. Even the books of the Bible reflect different styles and personalities of the inspired authors.
God wired every human to worship him and has given us specific purposes for life (generosity, community, sharing, serving), but additionally there are things that make us tick on an individual level. The way I express and use my abilities for God may look different than the next guy.
The danger is when we Christians “take a stand” on nonessential issues, turning personal conviction or a style preference into some dogmatic belief as if it were the right choice to be found “spiritual.” This not only harms unity within the church, but it alienates us from those disconnected from God — the ones Christians are specifically commanded by Jesus to love.
Here are some alienating (and some just wrong) personal conviction-as-dogma beliefs:
- The Republican party is the “Christian” party.
- Christians shouldn’t drink alcohol.
- Using the general term “liberal” synonymously with “bad.”
- Equating spiritual depth with academically complex knowledge.
- Standing “against” Harry Potter (yet somehow giving “The Hobbit’s” Gandalf approval.)
- God only accepts you in business-casual attire (or better.)
Each of these are unnecessary roadblocks (by us, not God) in the way for people to learn about Jesus. Instead of loving like Jesus, we remove the bottom rungs of the ladder with our artificial requirements and, sometimes without meaning to, communicate something to the effect of, “Well, you have to look and talk like I do before God will accept you.”
When it comes to the nonessentials, God loves watching you be you — for him.
— Send e-mail to Matt Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org.