The judgement between Christian denominations is toxic and must stop for the sake of Church growth
I was raised in the Christian Church. I was born and dedicated in the United Church of Christ, and attended the UCC Church until I was five. When I was five, my family left the church and began attending a Methodist Church. We attended the Methodist Church until the lead pastor left, and then church hopped for approximately two years. During that time we attended a number of churches before finally landing on a Non-denominational/reformation Church that has since become my home. In fact, I still attend this Church when I am home from college. In addition to this, I went to a Catholic High School, a Wesleyan college, and have transferred to a Baptist college.
My home church, the one I was raised in, has given me so much hope for the future of the Church. I have attended regularly since 8th grade. I spent several years as a part of the youth group and was blessed with amazing leaders. Even when I got sick I made it a priority to attend church because I loved the people there. I was baptized there my senior year, I did my first internship there, and I had the pleasure of working with the children’s ministry there over the summer.
As much as my home church has blessed me, they have also sheltered me quite a bit. I have never met a group of more accepting people, and I don’t think I will for as long as I live. My church isn’t afraid to tackle the hard-to-hit topics, but they do so with love and grace. I was taught that disagreeing with someone’s lifestyle is not a reason to stop loving them. In fact, I grew up so sheltered that I could not understand why Christians received such a bad rap in the media. My experience in this church made me wonder how any Christian could listen to the gospel and judge others.
It wasn’t until I got to college that I began to notice the subtle differences in the denominations. I remember telling someone about my church background and hearing, “Oh, that’s a really liberal church.” I found this conversation weird, but even odder was the next sentence in response to hearing that I currently attend a non-denominational church, “oh, so now you’re a conservative Christian?” It was a strange conversation, and I never really understood it. We were all believing and serving the same God, so why did it matter what church I attended when I was five?
After that conversation, I began to notice things around campus. Students would gather together in groups based on church affiliation. Non-denominational students wanted to be friends with other non-denominational students. The Baptists would spend time with each other. Methodists and Wesleyans flocked together. There was very little inter-mingling (although there was some).
Slowly, I began to notice the not-so-subtle disdain between denominations. In my time on a Christian campus, I heard the word ‘unbiblical’ used to describe other Christians more times than it should have been uttered. If I’m honest, it kind of turned me off. Even in Bible classes, I would occasionally hear professors talking down about how another denomination interprets a biblical passage. Even if I agreed with the professor’s interpretation, I still felt uneasy about throwing the term ‘unbiblical’ around. After all, Jesus called us to be His people, not to judge His people.
It wasn’t until I picked up my Bible and began reading that I understood why. Ephesians 6 is a great passage in scripture. Many of us remember the armor of God from Sunday School (I may have had to do an interpretive dance to it in Church once), but do you remember what sparks the conversation of the armor of God? In Ephesians 6:11-12, Paul writes, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Our fight is not against Catholics. Our fight isn’t against Baptists. Our fight isn’t against Methodists. Our fight, the fight of the Catholic, and the Baptist, and the Methodist, is against the forces of evil.
It’s the same fight, regardless of how you interpret the Bible. Regardless of your views on creation, or the end of times, you and I put on the exact same armor of God to fight the exact same enemy. This hatred for another group of Christians based on an interpretation of a book is ridiculous. Do you know what other book has it’s readers split based on an interpretation? Twilight. Have you ever seen Team Edward and Team Jacob go at it? I mean, they hate each other because they firmly believe that Bella was supposed to end up with their team (I never even read the books and I know this). That’s what we as Christians look like when we fight each other on scripture. We are the equivalent of angsty, middle-school girls, and it needs to stop.
We need to stop looking down on how other denominations translate the Bible. We need to stop referring to other fellow Christians as ‘them’. Baptist or Methodist, it’s irrelevant if your heart is in it for Jesus. NLT or KJV, it should not matter. It really doesn’t matter, because Jesus is the ultimate judge (and our job is to just love others).
When Christ comes back, and we all agree He is coming back (regardless of how you interpret Revelation), Matthew 25:32-33 tells us, “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep and the goats. He will put the sheep on his right, and the goats on His left.” Scripture tells us that the sheep are the disciples who knew Christ, and they will spend eternity with Him, while the goats are those who rejected Christ, and they will spend eternity without Him.
This piece of scripture is more than just my excuse for calling goats evil on trips to the farm (I love animals, but goats are not my thing). Notice how it doesn’t say that they will be sorted into sheep, goats, horses, cows, cats, and llamas. It doesn’t say that while the cows technically knew Christ, they don’t go to heaven because they didn’t interpret the Bible the way the horses did. No, it says there are sheep and goats. Two groups and that is it. In the end, it doesn’t matter if we sat in a pew and listened to hymns, or if we sat in a folding chair and listened to contemporary worship because all that matters is knowing Christ.
I’m not saying we should attend a Church when we believe that what they are teaching is different from what the gospel says. There is a difference between loving people regardless of their beliefs and sacrificing your own beliefs. However, I am saying that as Christians we need to stop the name-calling and judgement. Our goal as Christians should not be to tear down and shame other Christians, but to bring those who don’t know Christ to know Him. As Christians, we need to stop focusing on other Christians, other sheep, and start focusing on the many, many goats that need to be saved. The church split gave Satan a way to distract us from our goal, and it is time to stop. It is time to stop worrying about being right and start worrying about bringing souls from the left-hand to the right.