I have given God so much thankfulness for true friends who have walked with me through difficulty. When my mother passed away and when I had brain surgery – the difficulty was much. There were friends who came to wherever I was and cooked for us; cleaned for us; gave us their time; made us laugh. There were friends who made sure we had a place to rest, eat, sleep, and more. These friends gave so much of themselves to God that God used them in a big way, and I got to see it and benefit from it. Do you know what I mean? They were not simply pouring out to me their love, but God’s love that is in them. It is so real to me that they are my brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.
Here’s the deal: I hear people often give criticism to people who are followers of Christ but not in their “family”. I think you hear me well.
As for me, I grew up in the Missionary Baptist Church. As a young person I believed that people of every different religion was not really Christian. I had great friends who were Church of God in Christ, United Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist, Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist …. and so many more. Once I started studying the Bible for myself, as an older teenager, I found out that many of my ideas about their faiths were not so true. I had many conversations with my friends and we were all quite happy to know that much of the basis of our beliefs were the same. Some of the things that we didn’t see in the same way were about behaviors – human rules (Mark 7: 7), and not what was in our heart. My friends all believe that God created this world, that Jesus is the Son of God, and that God sent His son to show us the way and to give His life to reconcile to the Father all who accepted Him. One of my dear friends is in a group of believers that do not believe you should eat pork – she knows I love bacon though, and doesn’t condemn me for eating it. I have another friend who is in a group of believers that do not believe women should wear trousers/jeans – but she does not condemn any woman who wears them. I have one that does not believe women can be in ministry – but she considers me her spiritual big sister and teacher. We love one another – and we see one another as Sisters In Christ! We know that there is only The Father – and we know that our big brother, Jesus Christ, gave His life at the Father’s command, and is our Savior. We know that the Holy Spirit is God’s amazing gift to us that teaches us, guides us and empowers us to do all that God tells us to do.
The behavioral beliefs that we’ve been taught are of men – they don’t make us better than anyone and they don’t make us worse than anyone. We need to be careful not to offset the Word of God by holding on to behaviors rather than the truth! There is only ONE center of true Christianity. I’m saying all of this because the criticism (and even hate) that we have for believers in Christ that don’t walk in the same doors on Sundays (or Saturdays) … This hate is not like our God! We are not behaving like our Savior taught us to behave! We can’t hate the true believers who are Not Like Us! We can’t hate them because their skin color is different! We can’t hate them because their language is different! We can’t hate them because their worship music is different! We can’t hate them because their teaching style is different! We Can’t Hate Them!!!
I have told everyone who knows me to stop labeling me as any one type of believer – and stop labeling me as any denomination at all. There is only one way that I want to be known …. as a Follower of Christ!
In Luke 9: 50, the reprimand Christ gave to his disciples for putting down that man who loved and served Him but wasn’t one of them teaches us the way. This man wasn’t one of the Twelve or the Seventy; he wasn’t even someone who ever hung out with them. Instead, he had only heard about Christ once or twice, but he believed in Him and used His name with faith and prayer to get rid of demons. Now … just think about that. Would you rather see the demons flourish … or see them tremble and flee!
I truly am asking Our Father to help us to see one another the way that He sees us. We are – all who believe in Him – the Body of Christ. There is no one of us who is so much like Him that Calvary wasn’t needed!!
I am so very thankful for every single one of my sisters and brothers in Christ. Not only have they shown their love to me, they’ve shared the truth of the gospel with everyone who crosses their path. They know that as the Body of Christ, we are many parts; and every part needs the next part to survive – to thrive – to teach the Word – to reflect Christ in the world. I truly pray and plead with God that the entire Body of Christ – every single Follower of Christ – will remember who we really are.