I believe we must each determine what we believe to be truth and live in such a way it is congruent with what we say we believe.
If we bend and sway with every new thought or perspective we will never stand firm on anything. Yet, we must be very careful when it comes to matters that lead to more than one possible conclusion. There are many schools of thought. There are many scholars and theologians who have considered the exact same evidence … and don’t agree on all of the conclusions.
At a minimum, that should tell us what “I believe” and what is "true", are not always the same thing.
The Jews missed the Messiah because He didn’t line up with their interpretations of scripture. We like to think that no one who sincerely follows God and His Word could miss something as important as the Messiah…but in reality, we know that is not true.
The truth is there are many, many believers who are just as committed, just as devoted and just as intelligent as you are…and they don’t see everything exactly as you do.
I recently attended a Bris. The newborn baby is a member of my extended family. I was fascinated by the robes, the long beards, the prayers and the great devotion to tradition the rabbi and the Mohel exuded.
After the ceremony the rabbi approached me and expressed some interest in my Christian faith. A member of the family had spoken of me to this rabbi and even shared with him some of the details about my 40 Churches project.
The rabbi wondered if he could ask me "why we Christians so easily disregard all of the rituals, holidays and practices that were commanded by God for His people to observe."
I had a mouthful of ceremonial Jewish bread when he asked and I struggled not to choke on it.
How could I answer his question adequately in this impromptu side conversation in the midst of a Jewish celebration?
It would have been completely inappropriate to hijack the occasion with a long winded conversation between the rabbi and me about why I believe the Christians got it right and the Jews got it wrong.
I tried to collect a few concise thoughts to give him a sincere answer. I started by asking him if he was at all familiar with the New Testament. My hope was that if he were, I could help him connect a few dots so he could understand what Jesus meant when He said that He didn’t come to remove the law but to fulfill it.
To my surprise and disappointment, He said that he had never read or studied the New Testament. Okay, I thought. Now I’m tasked with trying to elucidate God’s revelation to His people (the Jews) through His Son, Jesus Christ, to a guy who is so thoroughly Jewish that I am literally not allowed to touch him. He has spent a lifetime studying the Old Testament with an ingrained bias against Jesus being the human incarnation of the Triune God.
I took a breath and said we Christians deeply regard the history, commands, laws and traditions observed by God’s people, the Jews. What the New Testament teaches us is the law of God was fulfilled in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. I said that Christ taught the commands of God can all be summed up in this one; we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves. Rather than demonstrating our love and obedience to God through observing rituals and keeping food laws, we are taught the laws of God are written on our hearts and we demonstrate our devotion and obedience in the way we express God’s love toward others.
(Now before you groan or judge me for choosing the wrong foot to put forward… I was completely caught off guard by a rabbi! I didn’t want to insult him or his religion.)
He rolled his eyes. He found my 30 second presentation patently absurd.
Looking for a polite way to level the playing field, I told him that I believe those who sincerely seek the truth will ultimately find themselves at the foot of God’s throne…where each of us will have to surrender our attachment to things we believed as fact, once we discover some of them are wrong.
I said, “One day I will see you there and if our hearts are really for God rather than religion, we will enter into heaven hand in hand as brother and sister.”
He chuckled. I don’t think he meant to be disrespectful. I think our faith genuinely seems silly to him.
We all want to get this right, don’t we? It’s terrifying to think, for even a moment, there is any error in what we proclaim to be true.
It’s understandable why so many of us purport what we believe, is the “ironclad truth”. The ramifications of being wrong are just too much to bear.
This doesn’t change the fact that it really is possible to examine the same evidence and arrive at a different conclusion.
We should be wary of church leaders who proclaim the unequivocal perfection of their interpretation of scripture. Those that disparage other leaders or other denominations are suspect in my book. The Word of God may be inerrant, but we…are not.
Anyone who claims to be infallible in their understanding is arrogant, dangerous and a fool.
Many cults have risen under such leadership. But it isn't just cults. We have leaders in mainstream Christianity who carry this level of superiority. Come to think of it, we’ve got a lot of church members who do too. I don’t imagine they mean to be arrogant. They just need to be right.
We are to be a humble people. This matters most when we are speaking with people who disagree with us.