• Greg

That Which Unites Us...

We live in a world of division and chaos. People dislike each other largely because of a concept known as social constructivism. The context that people grow up in, or the shared assumptions they have with the group they feel gives them their identification, results in people attaching value to others based upon their cultural classification. It results in a lack of goodwill toward others based solely on where they come from, the color of their skin, or the customs they practice. It can be difficult to get people whose worldview and relationality toward others are determined by these cultural classifications to abandon their animosity toward those who fall outside of their own circle, because of the perception that going outside of their circle would in essence eliminate the distinction they feel gives them validity. If a person’s perceived social status is contrived from their place in a certain social group, you can see why this could be a psychological hurdle to some people joining hands with anyone outside of their grouping. In other words, they identify themselves by their distinction and separation from others, therefore, to give up that distinction would mean to give up their identity. Now, lest anyone think I am of the opinion that all of the people in the world should set aside their differences and “come together”, I will say that I do believe in distinctions and even divisions, but they are based on values and behavioral characteristics, not ethnic or cultural differences.

Working in the criminal justice field, I have often come across people that group themselves based solely on the color of their skin. For example, in the prison system, “whites”, “blacks”, and “Hispanics” group themselves according to their “race.” A black inmate once made a comment to me and referred to “white people” as “my” people. I quickly corrected him and told him that I do not claim to belong to any group of people based on the color of my skin. A person having “white” skin does not make that person “my people.” I stated this point to others on many different occasions, and I made it clear that “my people” are followers of Jesus Christ, no matter what they look like or where they come from. As for humanity, I affirm without hesitation that there is one human race. There is no white race, black race, red race, brown race, or yellow race. Within mankind is a variety of physical traits, but we are one human race, nonetheless. People have grouped together over time, and certain physical characteristics began to dominate those groups, but we are all one human race, nonetheless. Though I was raised in an area where many thought and taught otherwise, I do not believe in the concept of interracial groups, friendships, or marriages, meaning I do not believe there is such a thing as interracial groups, friendships, or marriages. A human with brown skin marrying a human with white skin is not an interracial marriage. It is marriage between two people in the human race. They may come from different cultures, but they do not come from different races. The time will come when my children will marry. I do not care if they marry someone who shares their skin color or not. I want them to marry others that live holy lives. I want them to marry Christians. As I said, I do believe in distinctions and divisions, but they are based on biblical criteria, not worldly standards. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” All human beings have value before God, but many waste this value by living selfishly. (I am not speaking pridefully or arrogantly. I served sin for years before I gave my life to the Lord, and without his mercy I would be headed for destruction.) Don’t we see how people are grouping themselves together and dividing themselves from their fellowman for trivial reasons?

Don’t many professing Christians do the same when it comes to other professing Christians? I have been around other “Christians” who are a lot like the narrow-minded people who dislike others because they do not belong to their circle. Doctrine is extremely important, but doctrinal inerrancy is not the condition for becoming a Christian. When the rich young ruler asked the Lord Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, the Lord Jesus did not say: “You must perfectly understand the atonement, justification, biblical inspiration, the incarnation, the resurrection, the Trinity, and baptism and you will be saved.” He said: “Come, follow me.” Paul did not state that we must understand and confess a certain way of interpreting the intermediate state, eternal death, why people sin, the new birth, free will, or election in order to be saved. He said: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Some people are so dogmatic about certain ways of interpreting certain biblical doctrines, that they refuse to fellowship with others who hold to a different interpretation on the matter, even if they obediently follow Jesus as Lord. The narrow way is not the way of narrow closed-mindedness to alternative interpretations of biblical doctrines; it is the narrow way of love and holiness. The Lord will tell people in a coming day: “Depart from me, ye that work iniquity”, not “depart from me because you interpreted a certain doctrine incorrectly.” Again, I am not minimizing doctrine, but there are modern day Pharisees that consider themselves to be the truth-holders, and they anathematize others because they have different biblical interpretations on certain issues. My family and I attended the meeting of a church recently and the pastor stated his position on a certain topic, and it was a position that I disagree with. He further stated to the congregation that they should know that other Christians hold to a different view, which happened to be the position I hold to on the topic, and he did so without being critical. Though he and I disagree on this topic, I could fellowship with a man like that because we are both followers of Christ. There should be room for openness and conversation in churches when it comes to searching for the truth. Of course, many are afraid of having their stated beliefs challenged, so they attempt to shut down anything that does not line up with their church or denominational statement of faith. I believe in Open Theism and Conditional Immortality, for instance, yet I can fellowship with someone that interprets omniscience and eternal death differently, but seeks to follow Christ in holiness and righteousness, though I cannot fellowship with someone that believes those same doctrines but has an antinomian faith. I am not saying that any belief counts as long as the believer is sincere. What I am saying is that those who submit to Jesus as Lord are Christians and they will live forever, even if they differ on some theological issues. We may have some distinctions, and it may even be necessary for those who have similar interpretations to join together, but they can do so without minimizing or criticizing others who have joined together for the same reasons, as long as they follow Jesus as Lord and do not dishonor him in what they teach. Though we may have separated into different groups over time, and we have varying characteristics, as Christians we serve the same Lord, and we should love one another. What unites us is greater than what divides us.