My children attend a Catholic school, but as a family we are members of a different denomination. Needless to say, even though we never intended it, confusion reigns on a regular basis regarding differences in beliefs, rituals and manner of worship. So much so, that a couple of years ago I had to invest in my own ‘Catholicism for Dummies’ so that I could at least have some point of reference for all the questions.
Recently my eldest came home and asked me what type of Christian we are. “Type”, what do you mean type? Surely if you say you are a Christian that means the same thing for everyone? In my son’s mind apparently not. I was shocked to realise then that because of all the differences in doctrine and rituals he has started to think that different denominations means different religions and therefore different kinds of Christians. After we had a discussion about it I realised that even though this may have been quite a innocent question it also may explain why so many people can either not take that final step to follow the Christian faith or, in my son’s case, may run the risk in later years and think it is not worth all the confusion.
If Christianity, its ‘rules’ and the way we worship are so difficult to understand for those who are Christians, can you imagine how off-putting it must be for others? What is it that we truly believe in when we say that we are Christians and if we do not choose the right denomination that follow a specific method of worship will we then miss out on some of God’s promises to us?
I have many friends from different denominations and every now and again it is inevitable that there will be some or other discussion about differences in doctrine. The problem is not the discussion itself, but that it can very easily turn into quite heated conversations, which if we do not manage it, can bring divisions in our friendships.
So what is the answer for these problems? I think I found just the right Scripture passage that cleared up a lot of confusion for me and brought me back to the foundation of our faith. Church and the unity in the Church as explained by Paul to the Ephesians.
“You are all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness. But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift.” (The Message)
We all believe in Christ and his saving grace, therefore we are all one Church. The difference is that we all connect with God in different ways. Some feel more comfortable with a more formal ritual process, some with worship in song and others focussing more on the sermon part. The important thing though is that the core of Christian faith and belief is exactly the same throughout.
- One Master – Jesus Christ our Saviour
- One faith – Christ has died for our sins, has been resurrected by God the Father and sits at His right hand
- One baptism – which has allowed us to become children of God with the Holy Spirit in our lives and has made us part of the Body of Christ – the Church
- One God and Father who rules over creation and is present in the lives of the saved and the unsaved
We have to learn and accept that the method of corporate worship we follow and participate in was created by people and not God. God has given us the Gospel to follow and that is it. There is no right church and wrong church. There is only one Body of Christ (Church) and we all belong to it as soon as we accept Christ in our lives.
If we start focussing on what we have in common rather than our differences we will begin to stand strong together and make it easier for Christians and non-Christians to experience Church and to grow in Christ.
So next time you have a faith discussion with someone, focus on the Gospel and not the differences in doctrines and remember:
Don’t let Christians keep others out of Church