The Shenandoah Valley is a little strip of heaven where the people are generally kind and chapels from every color of the Christian pallet dot the rolling landscape.
We’ve been here nearly a decade and I’ve been impressed at how so many denominations are willing to come together to serve the community. We stock food banks and the local Goodwill. We deliver Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas baskets. We shovel snow and pull pesky weeds.
I wish this were universal in my community and yours. Because even though it seems we’re inching toward progress, recent experience suggests we’ve got miles to go.
Imagine the local leader of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, approaching young missionaries from your church on the street and telling them they will never make it to heaven. “You are not and cannot be saved. I will not see you in heaven.” This is usually an ambush debate, with no time for prayer, introductions or establishing even an inch of common ground.
Imagine the leader of your Christian church refusing to participate in a community service project with another Christian church because they have too many doctrinal disagreements.
Imagine a well-known pastor stopping to visit with some children sitting on a bench on a busy sidewalk on a Saturday afternoon. He hands them a pamphlet for his church and asks if they love Jesus. They do, and proudly tell him so.
“What church do you go to?” he asks. When they tell him they are Mormons, he tosses the pamphlet at them and as he walks away, he decrees, “That’s too bad. Oh well, Jesus loves you anyway.”
These aren’t hypotheticals; they’re my own journal entries. And those kids on the bench? They were mine.
Is this Christianity?
In other parts of the world, Christians are being attacked not just with words, but with weapons. Mass murders are filmed and broadcast for all the world to witness.
If we’re being threatened, dared and diminished, why aren’t all Christians standing together? Because we differ on some pieces of the faith puzzle?
Fellow Christians, we do not have to agree on everything to believe that we are literally children of God. And that he loves us.
Fellow Christians, we do not have to agree on everything to agree that he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to live, minister, bleed and die for us.
For all of us.
Fellow Christians, we do not have to agree on everything to agree that there is something waiting on the other side. We may differ on how it might look, but can we acknowledge there is something more for every single one of us who strives to live as a disciple of Christ?
More joy. More happiness. More opportunities to become more like him.
I understand the powerful urge to convert those with whom we disagree. I saw it in the eyes of the pastor who belittled and blindsided the young missionaries on a street corner. The desire to win and keep score is a powerful drive for the naturalman.
I also understand there are doctrinal differences across the spectrum of Christianity.
But love is greater than these differences, isn’t it?
The desire to feed, clothe and serve our neighbors is greater than these disagreements, isn’t it?
Christ is greater than all of this, isn’t he?
For all that divides the world, all those who worship Christ and strive to know him better must stand up right now, shoulder to shoulder. We must defend together, serve together, pray and prepare together. Because isn’t he returning one day for all of us?
The world is ablaze because divine standards and morality have been doused in such flammable sin. For heaven’s sake, our own street corners and sidewalk benches shouldn’t be fuel for that hateful fire.
Sometimes the answers are so simple. Perhaps all Christians, including this one, just need to be a little more Christian.
Jason F. Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including “Christmas Jars,” “The Wednesday Letters” and “The 13th Day of Christmas.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.jasonfwright.com.
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