Love, Acceptance, & Forgiveness
While our belief is a prerequisite to our understanding, “There is a two-way movement in theology: faith in search of understanding and understanding faith.” Our faith should continually move us closer to God, but people are mistakenly confusing their knowledge of God with a personal experience with Him which leads to intellectual arrogance. To know God is to love God and to love God is to love His children. Sound theology has the ability to free people from spiritual bondage and physical oppression, but when misused it has the potential to cause deep wounds which turn people away from the church and ultimately away from God. Jesus did not come so we could have religion; He came so that we may have life and have it abundantly.
The motto for the church I pastor is: love, acceptance, & forgiveness. When we introduced this mission statement and we began a philosophy of “no one fights alone,” many people received a deep personal touch from God, but others did not want to be in a church that was calling for the lost and hurting to come inside its doors; they felt church was not for anyone who had major issues. In doing so, they confused sound doctrine with the love of Christ!
In an effort to attract more people, we relaxed our dress code and began more outreach events in the local community like feeding the homeless and helping children in crisis. Our motto was not a license for people so sin; it was to show them the love of Christ and then to lead them to true repentance. “Revelation and repentance often come together, as God draws people to a deeper knowledge of Himself.” If the doors of the church are closed to those who need to know Jesus the most, how is the church ever going to reach a lost and hurting world? If you come across someone who is starving, but don’t offer them food and instead try to witness to them about God, you are missing the picture. We have to be willing to meet people’s most basic needs before we earn the right to speak truth into their life. Sound theology means we must show people how God would act not only in His words but also in His actions. Our mission is the Great Commission; we are to seek and help facilitate the saving of the lost and if we truly love God, we will love His children. “God judges our theology faithful or false by our attitudes and responses to those in need.” Our faith should always move us to act in a way that would bring honor and glory to God’s name. While we are far from being God, people should still see Christ in us by our actions and our words.
There was great tension and strife when we set out to become a church with open doors and while there was a mass exodus of people, many of those same people that left the church have now returned because they are now in need of the same love, acceptance, and forgiveness they originally rejected. Churches split over the color of carpet or paint and for reasons that have nothing to do with theology. What we must realize is God made each of us different for a reason, but if we don’t learn to work together, we are only left with strife and tension. As the body of Christ, when we come together; we can accomplish great things. “The community of the church – past and present – always stands under the Word of God.” Our very purpose and reason for existence is so that we might know the one true God and in knowing Him we would have a relationship full of repentance and faith. Then it becomes our intrinsic duty and moral imperative to share the same mercy and grace that was shown to us to the rest of God’s children.
Resolving tension begins by seeing people through the eyes of Jesus and not tradition. There are always going to be disagreements, but conflict is good if you know how to deal with it. In fact, without conflict you are only living in a false harmony. Informing people and involving them is the best way I have found to resolve and avoid tension. It’s all about getting the right people on the bus, but also making sure they are sitting in the right seat! By helping people find their gifting and calling you are casting a pebble into the pond which ripples have the potential to accomplish great things in the kingdom. We must never lose sight of the big picture; results may not even happen in our lifetime, but it is our responsibility to help people find the path and stay on the path to the living God.
Kapic, Kelly M., A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology, InterVarsity Press, 2012