Friday, September 20, 2013

Let Me Repeat

Matthew 6:7 (KJV)  But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
That’s a verse that continually reminds me of how little I know.  I grew up a Roman Catholic, later moved over to the evangelical part of the spectrum of Christianity.  The two sides have been battling like siblings for centuries over some aspects of doctrinal understanding, but each determined the other was no longer a sibling.  Having seen both sides, there are things that I have to admit that neither side makes a compelling enough argument to convince me they’re 100% right.  Take a look at what I mean.

That verse precedes the passage that gives the “Our Father” as the way to pray (Matthew 6:9-15).  Often, evangelicals will complain that the Catholics pray in “vain repetitions” because of the various prayers from memory.  But both Catholic and evangelical alike have the “Our Father” memorized and say it by rote memory.  Matthew 7:3-5 clearly suggests we ought to look at ourselves before pointing fingers at others.  In this case, our emphasis tends to be on repetitions, which all of us do to some degree.  But God has said often enough that it’s the heart that’s important.  Which would mean that God has issue with things done in vain, rather than whether we repeat ourselves or not.  So, let me repeat, if it’s easier to repeat known, comfortable words, God’s OK with it, as long as our heart is aimed in His direction.

One of the biggest and strongest arguments between Catholics and evangelicals relates to how each relates to Mary, Jesus’ mother.  The Catholics venerate her too much and the evangelicals lower her status too much.  The Catholics attribute sinless perfection to Mary, while evangelicals emphasize that she was human and, therefore, a sinner in need of salvation.  One point for the evangelicals.

Evangelicals quote 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;” to enforce that there’s no other way to get to God.  In contrast, the Catholics point out that Jesus turned the water into wine at the request of His mother, before He was ready to reveal His public ministry.  When I was growing up, there weren’t many divorces.  And any child was aware that, if you wanted a dad or a son to do something, you went through mom.  She had extra influence.  That’s what the Catholics are recognizing.  From my own experience, I’ll give the Catholics the point on that one.

The real problem comes in from trying to reconcile those two points.  Or from ignoring that they need to be reconciled.  Mary was human, just like the rest of us.  But she was still “mom” for Jesus.  When we realize that those two points coexist, there’s really only one conclusion.  The Catholics overemphasize Mary’s importance and the evangelicals underestimate it.  Reality lies somewhere in between.  If we happen to figure out exactly where in between, we can consider ourselves as a rarity.  But I’m not about to fault anyone trying to influence the Son through mom.  And, once again, isn’t it the heart that matters?  God certainly knows our hearts and thoughts.  So, let me repeat, if it’s easier to  curry influence through mom, God’s likely OK with it, as long as our heart is aimed in His direction.

We see a call to unity in Psalm 133:1-3 and Ephesians 4:3-6.  In fact, think of John 17:11, “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.”  It’s almost as if God wanted us aware of our own tendency to create denominational doctrines that we’re sure came directly from God, despite the fact that other denominations disagree on the doctrine and the source.  Or others point fingers at denominations that vary on some doctrines, such as the form of church government.  So, let me repeat, God tells us we need unity.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t expect that we’re suddenly going to come to good Christian unanimity, overnight.  Nor am I saying all doctrinal variations are acceptable.  There are certain study methods that Catholics and Protestants alike agree on, based on Scripture.  Varied study results, based on proper hermeneutical and homiletical methods may cause disagreements on conclusions, but shouldn’t create irrepairable rifts.  At  the same time, that doesn’t open the door for self generated unorthodox or heretical doctrines as also being OK.  Neither am I suggesting that ecumenism based on compromising Biblical principles is the way to go.

In this day of rabid atheists, muslims, and others that are willing to resort to media control, rape, torture, murder, and genocide to further their views, does it really make sense for Christians to throw away relationships over denominational differences?  Especially since the Word is so clear on the desirability of unity?

Having said all that, do I have answers?  Of course not.  But God has really had me thinking about this.  And it’s been on my heart for awhile that I shouldn’t be the only one concerned.  As the end approaches,  we should let Jesus words echo in our souls, “that they may be one, as we are.”.  So, let me repeat, to follow Christ, unity trumps denominational differences (Proverbs 3:5).  What do you think?

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