I recently witnessed something that made my stomach turn. In an online christian group, a woman identified herself as a Jesus follower. She also identified some different theological views than the majority of the other group members. What happened next was basically online-lynch-mobbery: Christian style.
There were a couple of others who shared her beliefs and came on to support her. But the faithful-keyboard-warrior-crew stabbed away at her and the others with comments like
“I pray the Lord opens your heart to the real truth of the Bible.”
“We don’t share feels we share biblical truths”
And the most ironic part? This attacked woman was GRACIOUS in her responses to the Christian mob. She showed herself to be patient and loving and kind. She lived out the fruits of the spirit, the ones that come as a result of relationship with the Lord, in the face of those who were accusing her of needing Jesus in the first place.
The group admin eventually came on and requested that the women in question recite their theological beliefs in detail, “Just to be sure this group aligns with your beliefs. For your sake and for ours.”
What would happen if someone actually disagreed with their beliefs? Chaos, apparently.
I think these women were well intentioned. I think they want people to have it RIGHT, and that they thought what they were doing was loving. We Christians call it “gentle correction” in our circles. But at what point are we so focused on the “correct” doctrine that we actually lose sight of Jesus?
We are each individually accountable to God, and only He can determine our hearts. We don’t get to walk around with our big list of “correct” doctrine and decide whether someone else is a Christian or not based on how many of our boxes they check.
Just stop it. Please.
There are many different interpretations of scripture. There are many different views about doctrine, about theological correctness, about hermeneutics. Scholars research things and go back and forth about so much of this.
Within evangelical Christianity alone, there are 4 accepted views on hell.
Christians can get into squabbles about almost everything. It’s good to remember that we all look to Jesus first and foremost. It’s good to remember that our God is so good, and so kind.
I want to clarify one thing:
Gender equality – my passion – is not a salvation issue. That’s not why it matters so much to me. I’m passionate about it because it’s a HUMAN issue. It’s an ABUSE issue. It’s an if-we’re-going-to-spread-the-GOOD-news-we-need-the-women-too issue.
I have brothers and sisters in Christ, people who I love fiercely, who disagree with me about gender equality. And one day, I plan on porch-sitting with them in heaven and chatting about it all (do they have porches in heaven? Who knows? Doesn’t matter).
I’ve done it too, slapped a “patriarchy” label on a person. And instead of talking about and cutting into the idea of patriarchy itself, I end up cutting through it and into the human I have placed it on. I am wrong when I do that. We are wrong when we automatically equate these ideas with the people who believe them, and then villanize the lot.
Let’s talk about the thief on the cross.
Here’s a refresher: there were two men on their own crosses beside Jesus. One of them mocked Him, the other defended Him. He said that they both deserved to be there, but not Jesus. Jesus had done nothing wrong. Then he talked to Jesus and said
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom”
And Jesus replied, saying
“Truly I tell you today you will be with me in paradise.”
Here are some of the things that were not discussed on the cross, things that the thief didn’t have to talk about in order to be with Jesus in paradise:
He didn’t have to recite the creation story.
He didn’t have to clarify his views on headship and submission
He didn’t have to explain the trinity, or even have to know what it was. (It didn’t even exist yet anyway)
He didn’t have to describe his views on sanctification.
He didn’t have to take a stance on ANYTHING religious.
Why is it so important to us that people have their doctrine completely correct? Why do we so often equate it with salvation?
The story of the thief on the cross is a reminder that we might think we know all the things. We might dig into scriptures to find answers. We might use those scriptures to back whatever stance we have taken on any issue. These things have their place and time. It’s a GOOD thing to understand why we believe what we do. I’ve been digging into scriptures, the Greek and Hebrew, the historical and cultural aspects of the Bible. We need to do that.
But as correct or incorrect our thinking might be, our thinking is not what saves us.
It’s a reminder that God looks past all of the head knowledge that we count as righteous and instead looks straight into our hearts. There is something He sees that we don’t, that we CAN’T. And that is why only He can judge.
We still need to have our voices. We still need to speak up about things.
I have a quest to lift up women to equal status within the church (in every area, really). But if I am tearing down my brothers and sisters in Christ and climbing up on top of their broken backs to achieve this goal, I have missed the point of it all.
We also need to remember to whom we are speaking, and what it is that we are fighting. We aren’t fighting flesh and blood, but powers and principalities.
We CAN have different views about things. We can even get upset when we feel that someone is wrong in their theology.
We CAN speak our convictions with passion.
We CANNOT determine the state of another human’s heart.
We CANNOT kick anyone out of God’s Kingdom.
Let’s let God be God, and let’s do better at loving others instead of deciding whether they meet our standards first.