We are fighting one another again over doctrine and what we call, “standards.”
For over half a century now, I have heard us debate, argue scriptures, lash out in heated exchanges. Frankly, many of us are no further along than we were all these years ago.
You’d think we haven’t learned anything.
We’re not following the Spirit. If we were, we would have learned many things, because He is the Teacher.
To me it seems it is worse today than ever before. If we all could only realize for one moment that we really don’t know very much.
Many of us have changed from the old teachings we once knew. We cling tightly to hard fought realities and things we know as truth today.
In the same way, those who remain in those teachings and doctrines are doing everything they can to hold on to the things they have always held dear, and to balance what they believe with scripture and past explanations.
Many of those who have left main stream Churches are still angry and resentful of those they left behind in Churches.
Those in these Churches are resentful toward those who left their ranks and feel hurt and have the desire to justify their actions.
There are those who claim they know who they are and what they believe. There are many who are still searching for themselves and what is real and what is only man-made.
We are all fighting for our identity and who we are. And we are fighting each other, whether we admit it or not.
Someone is going to have to bend. Somebody is going to have to show some compassion for the other person.
I will say to those who have left main-stream Churches, it’s like we’ve forgotten how truly difficult it was to change some of our old beliefs, to go back on things we were taught all of our life were true and necessary.
For some of us, the journey took years and much heartbreak and self-loathing. I have been impressed in thought about just how difficult it is to change something when you have been taught since you were a baby, all your life that certain things were true and written in cement.
We Pentecostals never thought that some of the things we were instructed in may actually not be true, and maybe were not rooted in scripture.
Some of us hid our televisions for years and sneaked around watching them, or at others peoples houses, not because we didn’t believe in television, but because we did not want our fellow brothers and sisters to know we disagreed with what had been preached to us.
To wear a wedding band could split an entire fellowship. Women in the north could wear short sleeve dresses but we in the south could not. And did we forever talk about one another.
There is an eighty plus lady teacher/ preacher and singer who is well respected among all of our fellowships and by the people in her city and even in other places in the world. They have one of the most respected, well-known Pentecostal Churches anywhere.
She has spoken in our camp meetings, conferences and they host one of the most spiritual meetings annually anyone could attend.
Most sing her praises today. If I were to say that it is shameful what some of us said against this godly woman in years gone by, some of you would blush with shame.
How critical some of our ministers and local Churches were of her and her family. Today we laud these people for their fruit and proof of what the Spirit has done in their ministry.
Don’t tell me I’m wrong. It’s true. We said they were too progressive, too worldly and too liberal. Gave ’em down the tube,s we did.
Now we think they are the best. The fact is, they grew and many of us stayed small. We did not know any better. Some of us still don’t.
The fact that we all call ourselves Christians, claim the same Holy Ghost and are trying to get to the same Heaven, doesn’t seem to make any difference.
Anyone who believes or acts different than us is out, not the real thing and some say we’re all going to hell.
Paul taught about returning to bondage, but we didn’t hear it. The apostles taught about not having division and contention over rules and man’s ordinances, but we didn’t hear that either.
Some of us “went Charismatic” and our families and friends freaked out. Some of us quit organized religion and our families and friends really freaked out.
It is possible that that many of us who thought we had seen a new light and had been delivered from harsh rules and regulations, did not realize what we may have appeared like to some people we left behind.
We Pentecostals simply were not taught “moderation.”
Compared to the rest of the Christian society, we were absolute extremists and proud of it. Some us took the word “peculiar” a bit too far.
Some actually became “weird” in their beliefs and actions, (let’s not start naming some…) The idea that we thought we were the only ones right and everybody else was wrong, should have been a clue for any normal thinking person.
We were willing to fight to the death for our beliefs. The crazy thing about some who left the mainstream Church was that we went absolutely to the opposite extreme from what we had believed before.
Women went from wearing no make-up or pants, to seeing just how much paint and jewelry they could put on, and how short they could cut their hair and what little clothes they could put on — totally overdone!
The men went just as crazy in the opposite direction — seeing how much they could drink, smoke, run the roads and how many wives they would rack up. And we wonder why some of our people freaked!
Today, over fifty years later, we are still trying to find out who we really are. So many divorced, some still living together, looking good and hating one another, kids gone crazy, getting in trouble, or so self-righteous and cynical nobody wants to be around them.
Both sides, the pros and the cons seemed to have forgotten what we really should be identifying with and that is the spirit of Christ.
We don’t love one another and there’s no use pretending we do. We’re cordial at the most and neither one of us has much tolerance for each others beliefs or standards.
You can scream holiness til you fall down, but if you don’t love people, oh well, you’ve heard it before. And the delivered ones, those who feel they have been delivered out of bondage, if you don’t start having some compassion and tolerance for those who still adhere to what you left behind, then you are no better, or no different than, the others. Your exodus was in vain.
There is a program that has a saying “live and let live.” If those people don’t want to have anything to do with you, leave them alone.
Let them live the way they want. Some of those people were harsh, brittle and totally unreasonable. Their rejection was brutal and left deep scars and wounds.
But we cannot forget that there are still good people there also and some of them are just doing what they believe in their heart is right. To think that none of them love The LORD and really do want to go to heaven, is absurd.
In closing, I know who I am today and what I really want to do with the rest of my life.
I want to keep changing and working on me, whether anyone else does or not.
I want people to love me and respect me, but I must remember that showing others a spirit of intolerance only makes my journey more difficult.
If someone is hurt or hungry, they don’t care if you’re UPC, AMF, COGIC, Word of Faith, Baptist, Methodist, COLJC, Catholic, Charismatic or even someone who believes in no God, or some other religion, they want some bread and a kind shoulder to lean on, or a cup of water.
They don’t need our doctrine, any of our standards, our harsh beliefs or our easy beliefs, they need someone to love them.
The truth is, if we don’t love people, we really don’t know who we are.
First published: June 14, 2010.
~ Robert Blackburn