The Charity of Conscience

I have a lot of friends, from all kinds of branches. And I’ve had them for many years. I’ve frequented numerous churches, can worship somewhat comfortably in almost any style, and love to see diversity in a congregation. And it’s led me on quite an internal journey: how can I have all of these friends who are truly friends, and yet we worship in such different settings, or congregations, or denominations?

Let me posit a few pieces that I feel the Lord has given me by searching for years about that.

1) Denominations exist in order to authentically bring as many people as possible to the love of Christ.

2) Denominations exist in order to authentically bring as many people in the Church as possible to free worship of God.

Freedom is necessary for true and God-honorable worship; but the Church can witness to how to handle freedom by being peaceful in the respecting of conscience.

How many times have you heard the question: “Why should I believe in God, when all of you who say he exists disagree?” Would these not make a fine explanation to your friends who find it hard to trust the Church? That they can be respected fully, and find a place where people who think like them worship God together?

And I know there’s a lot of schism in the Church recently; I had conversations last month with two friends in the same day about how the Church is responding to divisive issues in a way that doesn’t make sense. And you know, the only way to reconcile those issues is by respecting one another’s conscience. Why would God not want as many people as possible to worship him freely, without hindrance due to conscience? How much easier would this be if people just made formal declarations that said, “There is much respect for those who disagree with us. We recognize their right to worship according to conscience, as is our right as well. Therefore we will make every effort to maintain filial unity while worshiping separately for the sake of the respect of God and his lordship over our conscience.” Unity is good; but that doesn’t mean liberty is incompatible with it.

Question time: What struggles have you had when thinking about division in the Church? What has God taught you about division? Is there a proper time for it? How can we know when separate worship can actually be healthy? What strategies would you offer for those who really want peace in their congregations?

Have at ye! 🙂

Michael+

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