People of Other Doctrines – the new drunkards and gluttons

A friend sent me an email saying she’d started getting criticism from those in her blogging circles. The criticism? She was perceived as interacting too much with me on line. I was not proper company for her to keep. The doctrinal lines were being drawn.

I’ve heard this before from people trying to tell me who to interact with. Sometimes people tell me to be careful of who I hang out with and sometimes they tell me my friends are bad people because of their doctrine. The criticisms can come from someone being Complementarian, Egalitarian, Young Earth Creationist, Old Earth Creationist, Evolutionist, Calvinist, Arminian, Pentecostal, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or any other matter of doctrine.

This happens in non-church circles too, of course. There the criticisms can focus on political matters – too conservative, liberal or libertarian –  or they can relate to social issues – capitalist, communist, environmentalist, gun rights advocate, home schooling and more.

Then there are the criticisms that cross over both secular and religious issues, such as drinking or LGBT issues. Go out for drinks with a friend and you can get ostracized in some circles, yet if you refuse to associate with those same friends you’re likely to find you get judged for that too.

Jesus faced the same criticisms.

Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:

“‘We played the pipe for you,
    and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
    and you did not cry.’

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ (Luke 7:31-34.)

Jesus got called out for being with the wrong people. Then again, his cousin John was called out for not doing the things Jesus was accused of doing. Jesus’ accusers included the Pharisees, who thought they were above both Jesus and John. Yet Jesus welcomed a Pharisee to come to him (Nicodemus in John 3), and someone from the opposite party – a Zealot – as well. (Simon, noted in Mark 3:18.)

There was no satisfying some people.

Matters of Fellowship

Being a Pharisee or a Zealot did not disqualify someone from fellowship with Jesus. And as much as I might disagree with someone’s doctrinal stance, if they belong to Jesus then I am in fellowship with them as well.

This doesn’t mean ignoring doctrinal issues. I am in agreement with the creeds of the early church which correctly summarize Scripture and have guided us through the centuries. But a disagreement over doctrine does not draw a line that puts one Christian inside the kingdom of God and another outside.

This is the mark of a believer in Jesus:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9.)

Connections among those who belong to Jesus go deeper than merely coming to agreement over whether it’s best to be Calvinist, Arminian, Catholic or another gathering of Christian thought. Or whether to baptize infants. Or whether the communion bread and cup represent the body and blood of Christ or are transformed into those elements.  Or whether to hold egalitarian or complementarian views (the particular dividing point that led people to criticize my friend according to the email she sent me). *

When it comes to deciding who has it right, I like the way Paul put it when writing to his friends in Philippi:

All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. (Philippians 3:15-16.)

Paul did not reject those who held other views. Instead he had confidence God would bring everyone into agreement eventually. In the meantime Paul knew the important thing was to work together, living up to what God had already accomplished in their lives and moving forward from there.

Don’t let anyone’s criticism keep you from being in fellowship with someone else in the kingdom of God. Whether the fellowship takes the form of robust engagement over doctrinal issues with a friend, or caring compassion as you come alongside a person in need, or any other way God would have you interact within his kingdom, remember that it all is just that: within God’s kingdom.

***

Some might be tempted to use the comment section to argue the doctrinal issues I’ve mentioned, such as infant baptism or whether communion is merely symbolic of Jesus’ body and blood. Please resist the temptation, and instead discuss ways to engage in true fellowship with those who hold differing views.

***

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40 Responses to People of Other Doctrines – the new drunkards and gluttons

  1. It is worth remembering that issues that seem peripheral to one person may be fundamental to another. If you understand the eucharist symbolically it doesn’t matter all that much if others see the bread and wine as literally transformed into the body and blood of Christ. But for those who believe it is the body and blood of Christ – John 6:53 “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

    • Tim says:

      True. And yet the ones who hold a doctrine to be major that others hold minor can still be gracious in how they interact with one another.

    • I agree that there are times and issues that make this very difficult. For me, it is the issue of women in the church. As much as I would like to treat as brothers and sisters those who believe differently than I do, it’s hard, as an ordained woman, to be in fellowship with people who don’t even think I should be at the table, and who, in certain times and places, will actively prevent me from being part of the conversation. It’s not like I can just sit down and say, “Let’s agree to disagree.” I can really only walk away and look for tables where I am welcome. Yet that reinforces divisions. Clearly Romans 14-15 speaks to some of this–but it’s not always easy to see how to live it out.

      I do like the reminder to associate with the most outcast, though. That seems like a good direction to go looking for an answer.

      • Tim says:

        My thinking is that if they refuse to fellowship with me, that’s their problem. I don’t want fear of criticism to keep me from choosing to fellowship with others, though.

  2. I’m seriously seeing this division- those who are not divisive and those who are.In my mind it’s almost like there are two types of Christians those who love one another and those who don’t, funny thing is there is scripture that says they will know we are His disciples by how we love one another. I don’t hold to infant baptism, when friend’s of mine infant son was being baptized in an Anglican church I would have attended if I could have it was out of state but I prayed Jesus would bless their day and time and their life and their little son, they believe in Jesus just as well if not better than I do so what if we see baptism slightly different, we certainly agree on the spirit of it.
    I will say be careful about drinks, but God gives us wisdom there too, I had a glass of wine and a pint of ale out Saint Patrick’s and it was the sweetest time and it certainly wasn’t a stumbling block for people I was with, I’m the one who would be more tempted to over drink than them, lol.

  3. I find that listening without saying a word takes all the wind out of their sails. Smile, nod, and let them talk.

  4. Cindy K says:

    This is masterful, Pastor Tim. And I know that you’re just reiterating and quoting “It is written,” but you’ve done so artistically — or at least with more lovingkindness than anyone I can readily recall. Thank you for this.

  5. Tim, I really appreciate you reminding us that God’s kingdom is BIG — bigger than our disputes over doctrinal points and practices. There seems to be such a divisive trend lately. When I started reading/interacting with different Christian writers online, I naively thought this was the “Christian community”; it didn’t take long to figure out that person X is on THIS side and doesn’t like person Y because person Y is on THAT side, etc. And it can be so mean and rancorous. I was just thinking recently, “I am going to unfollow all divisive people on Twitter, period!” — by that I mean people who are always AGAINST, always highlighting the differences rather than the commonalities. I get so tired of it.

    • Tim says:

      It is extremely tiring, Jeannie. I’ve had to choose a couple times to stop interacting at all because the rancor was so wearing. There’s no opportunity for fellowship because it’s always attack, attack, attack.

      • Laura Droege says:

        Jeannie and Tim, this is exactly why I haven’t been on social media in some time. The rancor and lack of grace from Christians is exhausting for me, mentally and emotionally. I’m at work on another draft of my novel (a 5th draft that feels like a 1st draft!) and I can’t afford to be exhausted. It’s too draining on my creativity. Not to mention my brain health!

  6. dpersson7 says:

    I have had the opportunity to have friends over the years from a variety of denominations, and I have learned something from each one. The important thing is fruit in a person’s life not being able to give a “right” answer to certain doctrinal issues. The Pharisees had all the right answers and actively worked to kill Jesus. My friends from other denominations have all had several things in common; humility, love of Jesus and others, devotion to their families, and contentment in some very difficult circumstances. I wouldn’t trade those relationships for doctrinal correctness because they have inspired me to be more Christlike. I don’t mean to sound harsh or dismissive of doctrine but relationships are what tests the soundness of our doctrine because we see whether or not what we believe is bearing fruit.

    • Tim says:

      Exactly. We are known by our fruit, Jesus said. If it’s fruit of the Spirit, then the Spirit of Christ is in us and we are in fellowship with one another.

  7. “And as much as I might disagree with someone’s doctrinal stance, if they belong to Jesus then I am in fellowship with them as well.” Yes. I don’t think Jesus asked for much-love God and our neighbor. We complicate things so much-we love in a complicated world. Makes me long for heaven even more.

  8. Gwen Jorgensen says:

    Well said. What better company could we keep than the same, that Jesus strode confidently into, with barrier-blowing love. I often wonder how his followers struggled sometimes, with the people they automatically found themselves around, by way of following him.

    • Tim says:

      That would make sn interesting thought piece, Gwen – looking at the possible struggles of early Christians navigating their way through their communities. Any chance you might write on that as a guest post?

  9. Angie says:

    Wise words and gracious tone.

  10. DragonLady says:

    One of my best friends in high school was Roman Catholic while I was a Landmark Baptist. (Landmarkists consider Southern Baptists too Liberal, but aren’t as fundamentalist as Independent Baptists.) I got in so many arguments with her family over doctrinal matters, but then at some point, we all agreed to disagree and not concern ourselves with our doctrinal differences. We all believed in Jesus as Savior, and we have kept that central as our common ground. We each learned to appreciate one another’s concerns about our doctrinal differences as well which has helped me to actually better understand what I believe and why, and certainly to see the faults in my own system and strengthen my faith where it was weak.

  11. joepote01 says:

    As I grow and mature in Christ, my perspective changes on many doctrinal issues. My perception of God changes as I come to know Him better.

    My relationship with God and my understanding of scripture is quite different now from what it was 30 or 40 years ago. Those changes in perspective have been brought about by the Holy Spirit, through many trials and much prayer.

    I hope to always remain teachable…because we can only learn and mature to the extent that we remain teachable.

    So, why would I expect to ever find anyone else who agrees with my current perspective…who sees everything just as I do…when my own perspective in still growing and changing? If I rejected fellowship with others because they see things differently from my, I would be unable to fellowship with anyone…even my own former self.

    I have very strong convictions of my own perspective. That doesn’t mean I can’t learn from others. Even from those I disagree with, I can learn by trying to better understand their perspective. And by trying to understand their perspective, I demonstrate respect for their dignity as an individual uniquely created in the image of God.

    • Tim says:

      That’s what I’ve seen in my own faith over the decades, Joe. Some things I thought paramount have lessened in importance, while others have grown.

    • Lane Blessing says:

      I laughed out loud while reading your comment, Joe. I, too, disagree with my former self on so many issues! Maturity, growth, logical thinking, and wisdom have caused me to change my position on a number of issues and interpretations. I am much more likely to reason things out for myself than just take someone’s word for it. We have to keep in mind that we will always “know in part” and not completely on this earth.

      • joepote01 says:

        Yes! In fact some of the perspectives I now cherish the most were gleaned by choosing to intentionally step ‘outside the box’ to question what I had been taught from a more objective perspective.

        I tend to intentionally avoid reading commentaries until after I have first studied the passage out contextually. It is so easy to be led down a path by someone else’s prejudiced reasoning to a conclusion that doesn’t really make much sense.

  12. Reblogged this on Funhouse and commented:
    My friend, TimFall does it again!!! Please don’t comment below and tell me not to hang out with him, either.

  13. Pastor Bob says:

    Once a week, he goes out with her and her children.
    Her husband left her, and without funds to support the children, nor pay for the divorce.
    (She found lots of things that had been hidden form her, including her driver’s license)
    He lost his wife to her infidelity.

    Someone from the church saw the two of them together, and told them both that they were “in sin.” Pastor leaned 51% in the direction of the “sin finder,” but did not tell them stop seeing each other. The children were obviously blessed, which was the purpose of the friendship.

    When will Christians stop killing their wounded?
    When ungodly self-righteousness end?
    There is more, but his will do for now.

  14. E.L. Dalke says:

    Amen. I’ve had some very difficult convos with family over this. My philosophy: If you want to share the good news with people who haven’t heard it, why do you limit your human interactions to those people who agree with you already?

    Besides that, I’d be a sad, flat human if I only ever spoke with people who liked and did and believed everything I like, do and believe.

  15. Alice says:

    I was reading a book the other day where I could see that the author was a Christian, his faith was clearly shining through. However, I’m sure I could never do church with him – we would differ so much on the way to do things that it just wouldn’t work.
    So, I was thinking that in heaven all would be OK, we would all find out our errors and everything would be clear.
    It would be awfully arrogant to think that he alone would learn a lot of new things when he got to heaven – so what rubbish do I believe that I just don’t realise???

    • Tim says:

      I have the same idea, Alice. There are plenty of misconceptions to go around, and we’ll all have our eyes opened when we stand together before Jesus.

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