Believers are part of a FAMILY. One of my favorite terms to describe congregations is: “church family.” But I don’t think that phrase should be limited to a single congregation. Every believer is part of the family of God. Families, including church families, exist to be circles of love.
One of the worst things, I think, that Christians do is to criticize other churches because they have different styles or worship or music or prayer. I cringe (and I hurt) when other Christians outwardly criticize other styles of worship and music and prayer.
Through my whole career as a pastor, I’ve met regularly with pastors of different denominations. Recently, I’ve been involved in more and more healthy discussion which celebrates our differences. Pastors are seeing the good in each other. I’m hearing a lot of affirmation that God is present in a variety of ways. I’m hearing simple truths like, “we have a lot in common.”
For example, someone experiences God in a loud song. Another experiences God in a quiet song. One day I need a silent prayer. Another day I need a spoken prayer. As Christians, we need to RESPECT and CELEBRATE our differences. This isn’t just my idea. It’s in the Bible: “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are varieties of service, but the same God. There are varieties of activities, but it is the same God at work.” This doesn’t sound like a teaching to criticize someone because they don’t worship the way we do!
When we freely criticize such differences we see in others, we become more and more spiritually unhealthy. Followers of Jesus need to find more and more opportunities to affirm other believers. Also, rather than criticize non-believers, we would do better to find the good in them. God is there, in all good things. I’ve never heard of someone coming to Jesus, or to his cross, or the empty tomb, through criticism and judgmentalism!
There’s a well-known 60 year-old song which begins with the words, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” As individuals, when we have God’s peace within us, we become agents of peace, bringing peace to others.
Author Alex Haley’s motto was, “Find the good, and praise it.” It’s not in the Bible, but I believe this is a truly Holy-Spirit inspired saying. It’s a challenge for us as a FAMILY of believers: find the good, and praise it!
To God be the glory! Amen!