A simple drive down Any Street USA will reveal there are an amazing amount of different churches out there. Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic and so on and that’s just to name a few within the Christian faith alone. The list is enormous. So with all these different churches how is it possible to know which is the right one? As a world that is desperately seeking answers, whom can we turn to?
The vast array of churches we see are the result of interpretations of scripture and tradition and these interpretations lead to different beliefs on the who, what, when, where and why of the church and its function. This set of beliefs then becomes the doctrine or foundation that is unique to any particular denomination and is the reason why there are so many different churches. Unfortunately these doctrines often take a place of hyper- exaggerated importance within the church as a whole and cause division between an otherwise united group of believers. In most cases these beliefs fall into the category of “non-essential”. Meaning they have no bearing on salvation and the commandments Jesus told us we could hang everything else on. The result of placing to much emphasis on these non- essentials is a body of believers finding its identity in doctrine and not in Christ. Dare I say? To some extent raising doctrine up as idols .
Jesus said things like;” A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
So no wonder people outside the faith looking in at all the divisions and strife are confused and sometimes label the church as hypocrites. Instead of bridges of love they see mostly fences of doctrinal protection.
The Cross, in its purest form is relevant to every situation. The unencumbered Gospel transcends all cultural, economic and political boundaries. It’s when we add to it that it becomes burdensome and irrelevant. As we enter into the 21st century and try and realize Christ in our own lives and represent Him to the world around us, what non-essentials to the faith should we consider leaving behind? What are the doctrines or beliefs necessary to have a real workable Christianity?
I know that the writer of Hebrews probably wasn’t addressing this but I cant help but think of this verse when I consider this question. After all when we place doctrine above love wouldn’t God see it as an encumbrance? What do you think?
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)