and does it matter?
Do you believe Augustine or Calvin?
Do you believe in full immersion baptism, or sprinkle baptism?
Do you think bread and wine symbolize taking in the Spirit of Jesus, or do you think you actually embody the body and blood of Jesus when you participate in Holy Communion?
Do you believe the Bible is infallible and inerrant, or do you believe there are different genres in the Bible and it is to be read differently depending upon the particular book?
Do you believe God created the world in an actual, 24-hour seven days, or do you believe God’s days are on a completely different time frame than ours?
Do you believe in predestination, or that we have full choice about inviting Jesus into our lives?
Do you believe we have to continually earn our salvation and if we turn our backs on God He will turn His back on us, or do you believe in a loving God who always loves, is slow to anger, and will never abandon us?
Do you believe the faithful will be rescued and taken “up” to heaven when Christ returns, or do you believe heaven will be here on earth and God will walk among us, never closing the door to anyone?
Do you believe somewhere in between all of the above, or does it matter?
You see, once we stop arguing about all of those differences, once we stop dividing ourselves over all the theological dogma, we can begin to focus on the really important stuff.
The important stuff is Jesus. The important stuff is what He said, what He repeated over and over again. What He asked of us, what He instructed us, what He commanded us, what He did for us.
A lot of Christians quote John 3:16, but they never get around to the following verse, all words uttered by Jesus to explain His presence on earth:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16-17)
Do you think you’re in a never ending battle to please God, to work for your salvation or you’ll end up in the fires of hell?
Please don’t believe it. Christ already redeemed you, healed you, offered you the free gift of grace and brought you into an unconditionally loving relationship with the Father. He gave you His Spirit, who lives inside you.
Do you think if you do something wrong the Spirit will leave you? The Father will stop loving you? Jesus will stop interceding for you?
None of that will happen.
“Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” (John 14:22-24)
Love always comes first. It’s never about looking for sin and determining punishment or worrying about earning a place in heaven.
When we truly understand the bountiful, radical grace and generous, unconditional love extended by God
when we are able to accept that grace and love for ourselves
and for everyone else
we can begin to comprehend and embody and live out His words:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:25, 33-34
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31
“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” Luke 6:31
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Luke 6:35
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:26-27
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” John 15:9
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”(John 16:33)