“But it wasn’t long before reports got back to the Thessalonian hard-line Jews that Paul was at it again, preaching the Word of God, this time in Berea. They lost no time responding, and created a mob scene there too.” (Acts 17:13 The Message)
Perhaps you’ve heard the expression: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Having a lot of knowledge can also be dangerous, especially if what you’re learning has led you to believe something that isn’t true.
The Apostle Paul, though Jewish himself, suffered at the hands of angry Jews on many occasions, which on some levels was odd to me because Paul, more than any of the other leaders of the fledgling Christian Church, knew the Jewish faith inside and out. He had been a Pharisee, a member of the strictest sect of the Jews. Perhaps it was because he could argue convincingly from his personal experience and easily counter their objections.
For whatever reason, Paul was often confronted by intolerance and anger from people who were also very knowledgeable, but not very loving. Things haven’t changed much, have they?
Many people today, both on the proverbial right and left, major on learning their agenda and jargon and seeking to spew it out on anyone who will listen, or perhaps more accurately, forced to listen. But, as much as that disturbs me on an emotional level, that’s not what saddens my heart the most.
What breaks my heart, and I believe breaks God’s heart, is when people or groups from differing denominational affiliations or systems of theological belief, take aim at each other. My personal growth and development as a believer took place primarily in the context of a small, conservative tradition. I didn’t notice it much initially, but it seems in retrospect that our concerns focused, not so much on what we believed, but on what others believed that didn’t align with “us.”
As a result, I was constantly evaluating people on what “church” they attended or pastored? Or what they believed about “this or that” specific doctrine. And honestly, my expectation didn’t center on hearing what they said, I just wanted to tell them what they should be believing if it didn’t align with “my” way. You’ll probably find this fascinating, but it never quite turned out the way I expected.
It didn’t occur to me for many years that Jesus rarely ever did things like that. And I can “hear” someone saying, “What do you mean He ‘rarely’ did that?” Well, He did give the Jews a hard way to go sometimes, much to the delight of most of His audiences.
But that’s not the purpose of this post. I don’t want to create further division; I just want to make a few observations in the hopes of pursuing oneness in love, even if not in doctrine. It wasn’t until I took some severe “beatings” from my like-minded brothers and sisters that the Lord began to open my heart and mind to those who didn’t believe exactly like me.
The Lord led me to Pastors with whom I enjoyed fellowship, not based on our differences, but based on our mutual understanding of the basic tenets of the Christian Faith. They had extensive knowledge, but more importantly they had heart-warming and inclusive love. They accepted me and, by God’s grace, I accepted and loved them in return.
Knowledge is a wonderful thing, if it leads you to greater love and respect for, not only those with whom you agree, but those with whom you disagree. The Lord’s teaching me to listen a lot more than I speak these days. He’s also helping me to understand that in many cases, those with whom I have denominational or even theological differences aren’t nearly as “wrong” as I made them out to be. I’ve learned to love, respect, and appreciate them and look forward to being in heaven with them, where I suspect, we’ll both be surprised at some things we’ve missed and/or misunderstood.
Blessings, Ed 😊