It is a scary and sad warning our Savior gives us about the day when we will all stand before Him for eternal judgment:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Matthew 7:21-23
Many who “proclaim” Jesus will hear these terrifying words from our King. This should grieve us, and compel us, to proclaim the gospel of salvation to everyone we know—families, friends and strangers. But I think it should also compel us to reconsider how we behave and react to one another as Christians.
This “great divide” the Lord has warned us about is a clear call to speak the truth in love to all men. But I believe it is also a call to humility for us as true believers—a humility that recognizes that but for the grace of God we would be the ones facing eternal damnation. And a humility that should cause us to consider what we disagree about and often fight about as Christians.
In a world filled with unbelievers facing eternal damnation, we seem to spend more time worrying about the doctrinal differences of opinion we and our brothers and sisters in Christ hold, instead of setting aside those differences for the sake of the gospel. Don’t get me wrong—there are clear heresies and false teachers that oppose the gospel that need to be addressed. But some of the things we disagree over are just downright insignificant when we consider the destination of those who have so far rejected the gospel itself.
We are often more consumed with “heretic hunting” than we are in respectfully sharpening one another in the Word over our disagreements in biblical doctrines. A person can agree with 99% of how we interpret the scriptures personally, yet the one thing they are “wrong” about often causes us to break fellowship or consider the other person a “lesser Christian”. Well, before we cast judgment upon this person as a “heretic”, perhaps we should look in the mirror and ask ourselves this question: “What if they are right, and I am the one who is wrong on this interpretation?” Should I then be the one considered to be a “heretic”? The wisdom to ask ourselves this question shows a maturity and humility as a believer—a willingness to consider that none of us has perfect theology in every aspect of the Christian life.
Again, there are many false teachers out there peddling a “gospel” that is really no gospel at all—their teachings need to be exposed for what they are—a humanist gospel that cannot save lost sinners. Never compromise on the gospel! But there are issues Christians interpret differently in the scriptures that deserve discussion, but not condemnation. Ask 100 Christians about their beliefs on the drinking of wine or an occasional beer and you will find a great division of opinion. But should this separate us as believers? Ask Christians about the timing of the rapture and you will find some who have searched the scriptures and see what they believe is evidence for a rapture that might happen during the tribulation, offering another perspective to the widely held belief of a pre-tribulation rapture. Does that mean they are “lesser believers” than the rest of us?
The list goes on and on of non-salvation doctrines that sincere men and women of Christian conscience can hold differing opinions on. And too often our human pride leads us to think less of other believers and elevate ourselves to the level of “Doctors of Doctrine”. There is one consistent teaching in the scriptures we should all heed: God opposes the proud but lifts up the humble. God despises the one who thinks highly of himself; He loves and encourages the one who realizes just what a mess we are—those who throw ourselves upon the mercy of His love and forgiveness.
There is a fine line between standing up for the truth and crossing a line to arrogance and self-righteousness. Satan is always just waiting in the wings for us to exhibit the smallest sign of pride—and when we do he is there to fill our heads with self-righteousness and arrogance.
“If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” 1 Corinthians 8:2-3
Are we more impressed by what we know rather than being known by God?
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:10-14
Are we more like the self-righteous Pharisee who thought he was good to go? Or do we know our place before the only One who can forgive our sins?
It is a very short journey from humility to pride; let’s be in prayer that God keeps us humble and never thinking too highly of ourselves. Can we contend without being arrogant and contentious? Are the fruits of the Holy Spirit evident in our disagreements? Or are our disagreements laced with human pride and self-righteousness? Something to consider. Perhaps we should be as diligent checking our own hearts as we are in assessing the hearts of others.