It’s no secret that I am a Christian. However, my views and opinions don’t tend to sit well with the mainstream. I have been called everything from a heretic to… Well. You might be shocked at what I have been called.
Regardless, religion in general has historically been the single greatest source of division on this little marble we drift through space on. Nothing else seems to separate and alienate others like our religious views.
If there’s anything else that has triggered more wars, violence, oppression, or radical lifestyles, I don’t know about it. Nothing else makes humans more arrogant or dangerous than their views on something we don’t even have an absolute understanding of.
Even within Christianity, the lines of division are ridiculous.
We profess the same essential core belief in the same foundational elements, but beyond that, everyone breaks off into their own little groups that all profess to serve God in the “right” way.
The Christmas season, for example, never fails to bring out those who declare it to be absolutely pagan, refuse to celebrate, and occasionally use it as another opportunity to argue among themselves.
I have friends who are Atheists, Catholics, Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Messianic Jews… You get the idea. Each one seems fully convinced that they have conquered all understanding and have this whole eternity thing sorted out. Most believe that they could solve everyone’s problems, if they would just listen to them.
The fact is that we all have a degree of understanding. Some obviously more than others. Regardless of what you study or how much time you have invested, we can’t know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are absolutely right.
No matter how much you think you know, there’s always more.
Pastor Myles Munroe taught me that there are three keys to knowledge.
1. All that you know is all that you have learned.
2. All that you know is not all that there is to know.
3. Some of what you know is wrong.
So, with that in mind, I would like to offer a few suggestions for global peace and improved human relationships.
Consider the facts
The fact is that we know the most microscopic details of most tangible items on this planet. Anything that qualifies as matter can be studied, analyzed and described based on undeniable evidence. Religion doesn’t generally offer the same benefits.
We have personal convictions and beliefs based on our life experiences and environment. But, so does the next guy. Nobody that I know was ever converted to a chosen religion because someone argued them into it.
The real comedy is how we are spurred on to protest specific issues, while ignoring other issues that consume equal or more scriptures. How was your bacon this morning? You didn’t trim the corners of your beard, did you? The clothes you are wearing aren’t made of mixed fabrics, are they?
Or, go for some of the really heavy hitters. Have you spoken badly about your parents? Did you restrain yourself to a mile or so of walking last Sunday? Wait, you didn’t feed your dog on Sunday, did you?
Seriously. I have heard two pastors ever touch Romans chapter 8 and I spent years with each of them as a result.
Here’s the really funny part. Jesus Himself said we have two primary issues to deal with. Love God, Love each other. We can’t even do that right. Who cares about the other details if that part is ignored. (Matthew 22 v. 34-40)
Have some humility. Search for truth. Don’t attack anyone over something that doesn’t matter or you can’t prove. Don’t condemn anyone over a simple difference of opinion. Weigh your facts and beliefs against a little compassion and humility before taking someone apart.
Consider your motivation
When engaging in conversations about your beliefs, think about why you feel the way you do and why they might feel differently. Anytime we enter an honest discussion, with the intention of sharing knowledge, great things can come from it. You already know what you know. Maybe we can shut up once in a while and find it what they know.
It’s been said that the main problem with our communication is that we listen to respond, not to understand. Keep that in mind during your next deep discussion. Lose the chip on your shoulder and honor your potential convert with a listening ear. God only knows what could come from that type of respect.
If your plan is to sway someone over to your beliefs, it’s probably not going to happen if they see you as an arrogant jackass. Which, honestly, is how most folks sound when religion is the topic.
Consider the big picture
What is the endgame? What is the ideal outcome of your conversations and arguments? Are you more concerned with showing off what you know and presenting your debate skills, or are you sincerely interested in improving someone’s life?
Popcorn might serve as an example.
The next time you smell popcorn, think about the impact. It’s calling to you. It’s drawing you in. It is generally a familiar aroma that somehow makes productivity in any office come to a screeching halt when someone throws popcorn in a microwave. Once that bag is open, nobody can think about anything else.
Then, the initial contact with that buttery aroma isn’t enough. We must taste it. The scent alone doesn’t satisfy the triggered cravings. Popcorn doesn’t judge you. It doesn’t condemn you. Popcorn understands. It loves you.
Then, if the taste matches the anticipation… We consume it. It becomes a part of us. We give ourselves over to it and walk away satisfied and happy.
Does your religion offer the same benefit? Do you radiate qualities that draw people in and make them happy to have been there? Or, do you promise peace, love and maybe answers to things they are searching for… Only to leave them disappointed or even disgusted?
We won’t change the world for the better like that. Back away from the dogma for a minute and evaluate your own life, before demanding someone else choose it.
Especially as Christians, we as supposed to be known by our love for each other. Generosity, compassion, charity and encouragement should be our goals, not arguments and confrontation. We can’t focus on the things that divide us and still expect peace.
So, do whatever it is you do. Worship in whatever way seems right. Celebrate or don’t. I honestly don’t care as long as you aren’t causing more damage or division.
M. Erik Matlock is a self-professed recovering knucklehead with more than 500 articles and four books in print. He shares his hard-earned wisdom at ErikMatlock.com, ProSoundWeb.com and through his books, which are available at Amazon.