One of more complicated issues about being a Christian is not nonbelievers, but other Christians! We can often blurt out our opinions about Bible interpretations to the detriment of the one hearing it. Ouch – sheep can most definitely bite!
Recently, I met a young woman at a dinner party who was soon graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Geology from a Christian college. Being a naturally inquisitive person, I asked if she was a “Young Earth” or an “Old Earth” person. She said, “Young Earth.” I replied that I wasn’t, but I didn’t know much about the Young Earth side of the hypothesis of creation. She asked what my objections were about it, and I replied, “What about the Grand Canyon?” She kindly explained the Young Earth views on how that may have happened more rapidly than I was taught to believe, and we began to respectfully discuss the issue.
Then her mother, who was sitting next to her, interrupted our thoughtful dialogue, and said to me patronizingly, “Do you have a college education?” I answered that I was studying for a Master’s degree in Apologetics, but said I have not studied the Young Earth Theory much. Her mouth dropped open as if shocked that I wasn’t of the Youth Earth belief. With an edge to her voice, she asked me, “How can you be studying to be an apologist if you don’t take the Bible literally?” She continued. “What are you going to say to God when you stand before Him on Judgement Day and tell Him you didn’t believe in Genesis?” Oh, my! I went from having a friendly discussion about a theological issue to this woman pointing her finger at me and questioning my faith.
What turns many people off to Christianity is how we snap at each other. One man I heard talking about our faith said he’d never want to be a believer because of how badly we treat our own kind. We can cut each other down with such ill intent that it drives people away! They recoil. They may wonder what we would they say to them if they disagreed with us, or heaven forbid, stumbled into sin?
How we treat each other when we don’t see eye-to-eye on Biblical interpretations is so important! We need to humbly agree to disagree on issues that are not basic principles of salvation. The other matters are non-essentials.
My Pastor spoke about this issue recently. “ It’s a fear-based thing when we demand uniformity, where everybody has to think a certain way about non essential principles in scripture. Sincere God-loving, Bible-believing Christians believe different things based on all of Scripture.” 1
Listen to another person’s point of view and consider it thoughtfully, but never imply that they will be judged more harshly for not believing certain Bible passages the same way you do. We need to be kind to one another and stop getting worked up over verses that don’t ultimately lead to salvation.
The early church fathers put it this way: “in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.” Charity is a kindness and tolerance in judging others, and an old-fashioned love of humanity. Now isn’t that what God meant when he said to “love one another?” We can certainly do better.1. Tom Flaherty, 3-30-14 sermon at City Church, Madison, WI.