- Protestant parents of children in a Christian school want to "dismiss" a teacher because she was Catholic.
- A Catholic parent worried that her son might be making protestant friends.
- Protestants, who do not understand Catholic symbols and rituals, equate them with idolatry and "salvation through works".
- Catholics, who do not understand their own symbols and rituals, label Protestants as "unfaithful" and "deserters of The Church".
- Protestants roll their eyes at a child's Catholic T-shirt even while their own children wear shirts with their youth group's logo on it.
- A Catholic express pity for a young lady who died for standing up for Christ because this young lady was not Catholic and therefore would have a harder time entering heaven.
All of this I have seen and more...much more. Yet, all of the people in these examples have a sincere love for God and live their lives deeply rooted in faith.
So what happened?!
I know, I know-- the whole Martin Luther thing and the painful separation that followed. So painful, apparently, that hundreds of years later there is still hostility--even by those who don't have a clue what the whole reformation was even about.
However, this identity crisis of who we are as "Church" did not begin with Martin Luther. It has been around from the very beginning. Paul addresses the issue in his first letter to the church in Corinth.
"For since their is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting as mere men? For when one says, 'I follow Paul,' and another, 'I follow Apollos,' are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe." (1 Corinthians 3:3-5)
Yes, even in the early church there was jealousy and quarreling. Bickering between the followers of Peter, Apollos and even the followers of Paul.
Also, there were many disagreements between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians. So strong were these disagreements and so permeated throughout The Church that Paul had a confrontation with Peter over the issue. Paul rebuked Peter (can you imagine?!) for catering to the Jewish Christians at the expense of the Gentile Christians (Galatians 2:11-13). Yet at the same time unity was stressed when Peter acknowledged that;
"God, who knows the heart, showed that He accepted them (gentiles)by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as He did to us (Jews). He made not distinctions between us and them, for He purified their hearts by faith." (Acts 15:8,9)
So why is it so difficult? Even Peter struggled with it. Why do we feel the need to judge the heart of another when we hear, "I am Lutheran", "I am Catholic", I am Evangelical"? Why do we automatically criticize based on denomination instead of rejoice that we have just met another brother or sister in Christ? What are we so afraid of that we put defensive walls up instead of just appreciating each other?
Every one of us has traveled a unique path that led us to our Saviour and salvation. Wouldn't it be more interesting to hear how God has led someone on their journey instead of assuming that God was not a part of it simply because their walk did not mirror our own? Are we really that egotistical?
When Paul was dealing with the quarreling between his followers and those of Apollos and Peter, he clarified that all three of them--Paul, Peter and Apollos were merely men, workers for God. He said in 1Corinthians 3;
"The Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted a seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow."
The glory goes to God alone, the loyalties should lie with God alone.
In truth, God is the God of Catholics as well as Protestants. Jesus did not spill more blood for one over the other.
"But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. (!) If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." --1 Corinthians 12:24-26
Can we go beyond religion and embrace all our brothers and sisters?
Can we trade blind ignorance for the desire to understand?
Can we open our hearts to each other's journeys?
Can we praise God, each in our own unique voice, together?