DOGMA vs. JESUS
by Terry Craig
Copyright © 2006
Within the Body of Christ, debates rage over the topics of denomination, baptisms, fundamentalism, liberal theology, evolution, the timing of the return of Christ, whether or not the KJV is the only untainted English version of the Bible, whether books and movies like the Lord of the Rings are satanic. . . .
The list of things we’re willing to fight about is literally endless, and sadly, some Christians are willing to call into question the salvation and/or commitment of other Christians who don’t agree with their views on these topics. This has created two very large problems: One is the damage we are inflicting within the Body, the other is how our behavior has caused the world to view the Church as a whole.
Since the garden, those who want to be the Lord’s people have often allowed themselves to get sidetracked with knowing, pointing out, and compiling lists of things we think are “good” and things we think are “evil.” The Bible says that the knowledge of good and evil doesn’t bring life to the Body OR salvation to the world, yet we still endeavor to crawl up the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to pluck it’s fruit, eat it, and pass it on to others.
“dogma >noun an inflexible principle or set of principles laid down by an authority. -ORIGIN Greek, 'opinion', from dokein 'seem good, think'.” 
Christians need to understand, once again, that Christianity is about Jesus Christ and what He purchased for us—freedom from the law of sin and death, freedom to worship in Spirit and in truth. Unless we allow God to change our focus, many of us will continue wasting our time bruising each other over dogmas and neglecting to reflect LIFE in Christ—the only thing that will save this world.
A while back, a friend of mine who was studying the loss of silence (in general and in the Body of Christ) sent me a link to a “Christian” website with a note about how shocked she was by the content of the site. The name of the website implied it was dedicated to the virtues of quiet. In truth, a large part of the website was devoted to “proving” that a sizable number of celebrated Christian authors and other Christians of note were going to hell. Each of them had failed in one or more ways to pass the website owner’s personal litmus test of faith–therefore, according to this man, all of them were doomed to hell.
Ephesians. 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” [NIV]
Without realizing it, a lot of us (Christians) are guilty of the same thing. We often declare our faith in such a way as to say that anyone who doesn’t see issues exactly the way we do is wrong! Believers who aren’t part of our group, our denomination or our non-denomination . . . well, we’re not too sure about them. They aren’t living according to the truth as we know it. Oh, sure, if pressed we’ll admit they’re Christians, but we then have to qualify our statement (torpedo the other group) by adding that OUR group teaches the whole Word of God, our worship is anointed, and our traditions are Biblical. . . . Even if we stop at this, we’re still implying that the other group teaches less than the whole truth, that their worship isn’t anointed, and their traditions are rubbish. But lots of us don’t stop there. We’re insecure about our differences, so we defend our personal preferences by ridiculing theirs—and making our preferences issues of salvation. (To be clear, I'm not advocating acceptance what God has declared sin. I'm speaking of preferences being used as measuring rods.)
A man once told me, “You know, you Christians are always talking about what the devil is trying to do to you. The devil doesn’t need to get involved. You do a good enough job picking each other apart.” I hope I never forget this stinging truth.
Galatians 5:13-15 “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” [NIV]
It must be human nature to make things complicated. What makes a Christian a Christian? Romans 10:9-10 says: “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Now, how simple is that? Yet there are some who would present a long list of things one must do to be saved—and then fight tooth and nail to preserve the list.
Fact: I don’t get to pick who gets saved—and neither do you. This isn’t a TV survival show where we can make weird alliances and vote people out—but many of us behave that way. We spend time focusing on how to exclude other Christians from the Body instead of centering our eyes on Jesus, the Head, the King of Glory. "Oh," you say, "but we need to discuss this. Those other people don’t vote Republican! Those people can't speak in tongues!!! They sprinkle, we dunk! They don’t read the King James Version! They give themselves titles! Those people drink beer! They say they believe in evolution! Those people ordain women! And those people over there wear flip-flops and shorts to meetings!" — While some of these issues might be areas of concern for you, they aren't salvation issues.
Fact: Salvation isn’t about a membership to a denomination, a method of worship, a style of instruction, political affiliations, a version of the Bible, a type of clothing, music, or where people meet. Salvation is about Jesus Christ. Can someone have wacky ideas and still be saved? If they believe that Jesus died for their sins and that God raised Him from the dead, if they’ve confessed these things . . . yes. And the biggest favor you or I can do this brother or sister is to focus our lives on Jesus and try to live from that place every day. Only God can “fix” people. The more they see Jesus, the more they will love Him. The more they love Him, the more apt they are to want to live a life that pleases HIM.
Romans 2:4 “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?” [NIV]
What’s more important? Getting someone to agree with your interpretation of a scripture or letting them see Christ in you? Is winning them to your view of an issue or showing them that knowing Jesus is the most important thing? Getting them to join your church, or encouraging them to follow Christ–wherever that takes them? . . . Most Christians would say that Jesus Christ is the most important thing—because that’s the pat religious answer. Yet listening to the cacophony of name-calling and ugly talk over non-salvation issues, the world is having a hard time believing that this is an honest answer.
The Church in America is diminishing. And why is that? A big part of the reason is that we’ve become like a grossly dysfunctional family down the street. We’re beating each other up and yelling so loud over what amounts to personal preferences, that the neighbors can’t help hearing it. Why would any of them want to come to our house and stay for dinner? We keep lifting up our different styles to appeal to the world—but style isn’t what the world needs. The world needs a savior.
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” [John 13:34-35 NIV]
Jesus said that loving each other would be the key evidence that we belong to Him. How much more simple could His commandment be? He knew that love and discipleship go together.
Believe it or not, the Lord God Almighty doesn’t need a lawyer OR a body guard. If He did, He wouldn’t be any better than a god made of wood or metal or stone. Our job is to demonstrate the love this world needs to see and direct the focus onto the Lord Jesus Christ.
If I believe that Jesus saved me,
if I believe HE is my Answer, my Wisdom, my Brother, and my Friend,
if I believe He is alive and interceding for His people,
if I believe that He is the High Priest over His Church, the Head of the Body, the Bridegroom who is able to make the Bride without spot or wrinkle . . . maybe I should stop throwing punches at her and trust Him to do His job.
Religion builds walls,
Relationship with Jesus builds up in love.
Religion is self-conscious,
Faith is God-conscious.
Religion will make an alliance with the world to crucify a threat to its dominion,
Relationship means we will die for a Friend.
Copyright © 2006 Terry L. Craig
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All Scriptures marked NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
 Taken from the Compact Oxford English Dictionary, © Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All rights reserved. (Return to article)