Not our call to divide
Welcome questions. If the questions are theological, don’t just welcome them, embrace them.
Now hold on, I get that sometimes we brush up against uncomfortable places when we talk about God “and all of that.” Sometimes we dance—or stumble—into awkward, ignorant pauses. Sometimes we feel inadequate, even challenged. But isn’t learning when we come to the edge, rather than stay safe in our own familiar middle ground?
Conversations are shared learning experiences. Shared learning experiences invite the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit, in a definition you may not have heard phrased this way, is that awesome third part of God that sparks our soul by lighting us to the presence of Christ within us.
I’m saying this. Don’t turn from theological questions. Turn toward them. Questions and subsequent conversations draw us to places of godly insight, direction, and, above all, love.
Recently, I received two interrelated questions here on my website. The two questions were followed by a key sentence, which was written by the one asking the questions. This single, illuminating sentence, just five words long, speaks as much to the questions as they do to the theology of the one who is asking.
Curious about the questions and the sentence? Good! Here they are (next paragraph).
Does God favor one religion over another? Will God treat all people the same? This is what I’m hoping.
In what I hope sparks conversation between us (and by ‘us’ I mean all of us—the one with the questions and you here reading now), I begin what I hope will be a conversation by saying I appreciate the word ‘hope’ being used here.
The word hope speaks to the person’s understanding that God as love, and this is how John describes God in 1 John 4:7. I share this because Jesus, who welcomed questions, even ones intended to trap him, is liberal in his love. By being liberal in his love, I mean that Jesus loved everyone, including those the world considered unlovable.
To speak to the questions directly, I mention John 14:6 which reads, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'”
Christianity wasn’t even known as Christianity when this was first shared. Those who followed Christ’s teachings were not known as Christians. Instead, they were known as people of the Word. These people of the Word lived in a world that was hostile to their beliefs.
Is that why John 14:6 is here? Is this verse calling us to a single way to reach God, the Father? The answer is yes.
To disagree with, ignore or wiggle around this verse is a dangerous practice because we should not pick and choose the verses we follow (or agree with) and which verses we don’t.
This brings me back to where this column began, which is the point about questions leading to conversation. Do we hold all the answers? No, we don’t. We were not there when God laid the foundations of the earth and we have not visited the storehouses of snow and hail (Job 38). [This chapter, in essence, means our knowledge has limits.] Our ways are not God’s ways (Isaiah 55:89).
What is most important is not our call to divide but love. And love, according to Paul, always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:7).
Keep on loving your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:37-39, Mark 12:31, John 10:27). I’m not oversimplifying. I’m merely inviting us to do what we are called to do, which is love.
And love should be talked about. More importantly, it should be shared.
I tweaked this blog from its original version as a column in The Susquehanna Independent on February 5, 2020. I didn’t change my ideas, just their readability.