Michael Hidalgo

WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT THAN OUR BELIEFS1.28.2015

BeliefSqu-privateI am less concerned than ever about what people who are a part of the Church believe. Allow me to explain why I would say such a thing.

Sure, there are certain core beliefs to which one holds if he or she is follower of Jesus. Beyond those, I am learning the people of God are better off when we are marked by divergent beliefs on the most important social, theological, political and philosophical questions and conversations of our day.

Just so I don’t keep you guessing, I am talking about everything from hell to divorce to same-sex marriage to marijuana (um, I live in Denver) to immigration to the Bible to sexuality. Many think we should take a stand on these and many other issues. However, it’s possible that may not be the best thing we can do.

Many godly and wise men and women have opposing viewpoints with regard to these conversations. These are men and women who could stand alongside one another and recite the Apostle’s Creed with full conviction, but the sad thing is many of them don’t. In fact, they stand far away from one another; separated by immovable boundaries of belief.

Now, allow me to ask you to keep reading – even if you disagree. Please know I am not saying what we believe about certain issues is not important. What I am saying is there is a good chance there is something more important than our beliefs – that being unity. Here are a few reasons I say this …

Forging Pathways Not Building Walls

I’ve seen many congregations who unite first and foremost around common belief. They agree to a doctrinal statement and “toe the line” theologically. What I have learned is churches that do this invariably create “us” and “them” categories. It’s easy to do because we can immediately define who is and who is not like us. As a result, many are kept at a distance and a few make the cut.

We must remember anytime we create boundaries that make joining the life of a faith community difficult we can be assured we are operating differently than Jesus did.

He enjoyed meals with the religious and the sinners. He ate in the homes of the tax collectors who exploited the poor and he ate with the poor who were exploited by the tax collectors. Meals in Jesus’ day spoke toward intimacy and friendship. This teaches us Jesus did not draw boundaries of belief; he forged pathways of relationships so others could flourish.

Belief Is Easy

Of all the things Jesus could have prayed for us, he prayed for “complete unity” (John 17:23). More important than believing the same thing is a willingness to enter deeply into relationships – in all the mess and all the glory they bring. This calls for us to bear with one another, forgive one another, give grace when we fail and cheer each other on when we succeed. It means taking on the attitude of Jesus and living as a humble servant.

Living like this would bring greater unity than ever before. Of course, this kind of life is difficult and requires a strong commitment from each us. Maybe this is why we prefer belief; because it’s easy to say we believe something and find others who agree with us. But putting ourselves below one another so we can serve each other is much harder.

Unity Over and Above Belief

If we pursue unity first we will discover we will move beyond “agreeing to disagree.” In fact, our disagreements will fade into the background of our relationships. In pursuing unity with one another we are forced to pursue a deeper relationship with Jesus. And it’s impossible to love Jesus more and not love others more and grow closer to them – regardless of what they believe.

And what if we did this? What would those who are not a part of the Church think of us? What would they think if they saw a group of men and women who practice love, grace, mercy and compassion with one another in the midst of different beliefs? What would it say to our divided world if the people of God did not just tolerate each other, but gathered around the table to break bread and drink wine in communion with God and one another? What would it look like if we, with all of our divergent beliefs and opinions, came together as one? Though this may sound like John Lennon spouting platitudes this is exactly what Jesus prayed for. He prayed to his Father, “… may they be one as we are one” (John 17:22).

The idea of one does not mean everyone being the same or even believing the same things. The idea of being “one” as Jesus said it means that several things existing as one. Just as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – three are in fact one. This is the prayer of Jesus for us.

It has always puzzled me that many Christians are willing to show kindness to non-Christians, but have a harder time showing that same kindness to another Christian who believes differently. It’s time for this to change, and this means we may have to change what we believe about “complete unity.”

And we ought not wait. For if we can do this we will show others what the life to come will look like when God has renewed, restored, reconciled and redeemed all things. For in that day we will all at last live deeply connected to the heart of God in complete unity. And the good news is we do not have to wait for that day – we can do that now.

So maybe I am concerned with what people who are a part of the Church believe. With that said, my greatest concern is that together we believe that “complete unity” will be the most important thing.

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