By: Rev Ed Schneider
Christians need to stop arguing and start finding common ground. It isn’t that difficult if we have the heart for it.
The other day I was in the middle of the second sermon on a Sunday morning when I noticed from my pulpit there were several obvious points in my message that should easily garnered an “Amen” or two. So, I proceeded to stop and look at the congregation present and ask them, “Didn’t you hear anything you could agree with?
I followed that question with another. “Wasn’t there anything that I just said valuable enough to respond to?”
Finally, I used the opportunity to instruct, yet again, that the very act of preaching lends itself to a shared participation. Whenever any preacher says something worth agreeing with, then someone out in the audience responds with an “Amen” or a “hand-wave” or even a head bobbing back-and-forth as though the person in agreement is offering a silent but obvious acknowledgment of God’s truth.
After everyone got a good chuckle concerning my antics there were plenty of verbal acknowledgments thereafter regarding what was being shared within the phrases of my message. However, I couldn’t help feeling I had stumbled on to a serious underlying issue surrounding the very nature of…..even the foundational history of…..The Christian revolution AFTER it decided to “get organized.”
Throughout the history of religion, in general, and Christianity, in particular, human beings have been arguing about what seems like endless streams of conflicted opinions over doctrine, philosophy, and the sacred scriptures they hold dear. Because of this constant bickering I have a few questions to ask.
Why is it that the church can’t seem to agree on anything of any worth without having to argue about it?
- Why is it that when the church is asked to answer a direct question of doctrine or creed, they shrivel under the self-imposed weight of not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings?
- Why is it that with all of the useless differences we have imposed on each other over the last several centuries we can’t seem to find enough common ground to stand on – to proclaim from – to be confident in?
My God! In the greater scheme of things, there is so much unimportant “church stuff” floating around separating believers I often wonder how we, as a Christian community of believers, get anything done at all.
This group over there thinks the world is ending tomorrow. That group over on the left thinks being able to marry a dog to a monkey while having a circus clown as the usher somehow translates into the inclusive call of the church. Still yet another mass of humanity finds it necessary to remind everyone around them, whether they want to listen or not, that their tradition is the only tradition that has any validity.
We sometimes argue about weighty subjects such as war or hunger. Other times we fight over brick and mortar or even what the color of the bus that carries the donated clothes to the homeless shelter. We fight over whether to pray, what to pray, when to pray or how loud, how soft, or how long to pray. We can’t agree on the name of God. Is it Jehovah, Yahweh, LORD, Jesus, Allah, Adonai or Bubba? Heaven forbid we should come to arrive at things as apparently simple and to the point as a statement of belief.
Whatever happens, please try and avoid a room full of folks who think they are God’s gift to theology or philosophy. They will have you there for hours trying to split every four syllable word into pieces just to make sure they look good in the eyes of their colleagues while accomplishing little for their efforts.
So, to assist as best as I can, those who may be looking for something the Christian Community can build on without too much argument or conflict, let me offer these words of proclamation concerning what I have come to believe and hold sacred. These following words have the deepest of meaning to me and I share them with every congregation that I have served for the past 30 years of my life.
As you read these words try not to think of them as a creed or doctrinal statement. If you do, you will probably start thinking too much and mess up the whole idea. Just think in terms of a personal foundational belief that carries and sustains me through good times and bad. It only includes a mere 403 words and it’s called “l Know and I Believe.”
I Know and I Believe
I know that there is something greater than me – a force that is all powerful, who has created both the known and the unknown.
I believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah spoken about in the scriptures of the Old Testament. I believe that this same Jesus represents the honest and sincere reflection of the Creator; that He was an actual historical figure who was born of a divinely touched young and innocent girl, who was endowed with every aspect of the Divine.
I know and have no doubts concerning the historical reality of Jesus being beaten unmercifully and crucified on a wooden Cross.
I believe that after He died his natural death and was actually buried, God’s power raised who He was, in his completeness, from the ultimate depth of separation into the everlasting and Divine connection with the Creating force we have come to recognize as God.
I believe that after God’s resurrecting power was displayed through Jesus, He became, and continues to be, the focal point of authority and judgment of the past, present, and future.
I believe in the gracious gift of the permanency and growth provided through the actual presence of the Divine understanding and discernible empowerment of the Holy Spirit of God.
I believe in the “church universal.” I recognize the “church universal” as being that body of believers from every part of the faithful who have already proclaimed and accepted the promise of God through Jesus’ life, death and resurrected reality.
I believe in the committed, sincere, and joyous gathering of the believers of God through Christ to share their worship, service, and sacrament with each other.
I believe that God can and will forgive all that is authentically repented for within the life and soul of each believer.
I believe that, just like Jesus, all true believers will be brought into God’s permanent presence at the end of all that is known with a newness of life that has been given to us by a gracious God; and believers will never be able to live outside the loving reality of the Creator’s complete presence again.
I testify to my unending trust and belief in a God who can do anything but fail.
I believe in the way, the truth, and the life that is graciously provided to all humanity.
I believe and I know my God is as real as real gets.
Take these 403 words of faith to your church, pastor, prayer partner or Bible study group and see whether there is enough to agree on that maybe – just maybe – we can start coming together instead of separating ourselves.