This post was originally published April 11, 2011. (I’ve got an eye thing and have to limit screen time for a couple weeks, so I’m posting reruns.)
“Why don’t you go to another church?”
“Because I’m Catholic,” Harold answered.
“You’re not Catholic,” I argued, “if you don’t believe what they teach.”
Harold just smiled. “I’m Catholic.”
My friend and I were in high school–those extraordinary years of challenging our parents and forming opinions of our own.
In some ways, adolescents must vilify authority in order to become independent adults. I rejected the secularism of my upbringing, and believed in Jesus. Harold, raised Catholic, questioned the tenets of his church, but as far as I know, he never entertained the thought of leaving.
During Lent, the Catholic/Protestant issue invariably surfaces. Protestants insist that “it doesn’t take all that” to please God. Catholics just smile. They’re Catholic.
“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.” (1 John 4:15-16, NIV)
I believe God appreciates our questions. “Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD…” (Isaiah 1:18). How else can we know Him for ourselves?
Like teenagers wrestling with childhood uncertainties, people of all faiths struggle with conflicting doctrines, especially during holiday seasons. When questioning, however, adults sometimes resort to the ways of adolescence, and accuse their spiritual predecessors of deliberate fraud. Vilifying their parents or church leaders is the only way that some people know how to cope with an opposing viewpoint.
I say it is time to put away childish things. No one lied to us. Right or wrong, our ancestors shared what they believed, mostly with good intentions. No man or woman can hand us pure truth. Only God is all-knowing. It’s up to each one of us to pray, study, listen, and learn for ourselves. That means we won’t all agree. And that’s okay.
“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.” (1 John 4:20, NIV)
Last I heard, Harold was still Catholic. I’m still not. He embraced the beauty and truth in his church, and didn’t worry about the parts he disagreed with. By staying in the church that he loved, Harold has seen opportunities to reach out and make a difference in the lives of people I will never meet.
How do you handle doctrinal and denominational differences with your brothers and sisters in Jesus?