While at Yale I dabbled in atheism. My reasoning was a familiar one: if God was loving and good, why did he allow this world and all of us in it to get so messed up? My quarrel with God was undermined when I somehow fell in with some Ivy League believers whose love for God and one another defied all logic.
Soon I discovered an amazing fact. God himself became a man, lived and suffered among us. more than we could imagine, then died a cruel death, all because He loves us and wants to put things back the way they are supposed to be.
Shortly thereafter, I found Jesus Christ. Although, come to think of it, it was me who was lost, not Him. So it probably would be more accurate to say He found me!
Excited about my relationship with the Lord, I joined a Bible Study group in my dorm. After a joyful encounter with the Holy Spirit, I shared my experience with the group. They rejoiced with me, for they could see my enthusiasm for Jesus Christ. But the leader’s face clouded when he heard my news.
Later he grilled me as to the soundness of my doctrine, wondering if I was truly saved. My experience did not fit his theology. I felt sad and confused, but God had filled me with His love. I had no doubts about Jesus and felt only positive regard for my brother.
A year passed. While we were working overseas for NSA as Chinese linguists, this brother spotted me. Immediately he apologized and opened his Bible to I John 1:7 (NAS) ”If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship [koinonia] with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son cleanses us from all sin.” God had spoken to him through this word and he came to realize if doctrine hindered true fellowship, perhaps it’s the doctrine that should be questioned, not the experience.
Can we ever put aside our tangential doctrines, theological preferences and need to be right? Can believers stop debating and find in the Great Commandment and Great Commission our common cause? Can we do this for the sake of the lost, our brethren, church unity and most of all for our Lord. who prayed, “….may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe. (John 17:21 NAS)
Years later, while at Princeton Seminary, a group of mainline Protestants, evangelicals and charismatics got together and began praying together. It was causing quite a stir on campus and doing a lot of good. Soon, however, being “intellectuals”, we began expounding our theological insights. Soon disagreement and conflict was creating disunity in the group. Some of us could feel how this was weakening our prayers and our witness.
One day, while walking to class, praying about this, the Spirit spoke strongly to me. “Place your doctrinal differences on the altar of Christian unity.” I knew God had spoken and carried this message back to the group. While our differences didn’t disappear, we put them on hold and the group continued.
Today, if I find myself debating a pet doctrine, and see it is causing divisions, I find I have a choice. I can be right or I can obey Him. I wish I could say I always make the right choice.
Is there any higher doctrine than the Great Commandment and Great Commission? If we truly love God, won’t we love one another?. And won’t our love for Christ and one another be a witness to our neighbors, thus showing them Christ’s love?