“Silly Catholics, don’t they know he’s not on that cross anymore?” I smugly thought to myself, when I noticed the crucifix up on the wall. I had just gotten to the room that would be my home for the next week. About 2005 or so, I took time off from work and went to a monastery to fast and pray for a week. It was an incredible time of closeness to God, but that’s another story.
Anyway, I had just gotten to my room, noticed the crucifix on the wall, and my protestant pride was showing. You see, we protestants use empty crosses, to emphasize Jesus’ resurrection. I thought my theological superiority was a no-brainer, but the Holy Spirit rebuked me sharply with three words.
“Don’t do that,” he said in my thoughts in his loving, but firm, way. He wasn’t being mean or anything, but he wasn’t going to stand for it. Over the years I’ve learned to discern the Holy Spirit’s voice, and this was definitely him.
I was shocked. “What are you talking about, Lord?”
Then the Holy Spirit gave me a download about denominations. The movie The Passion of the Christ had just come out. I loved that movie for a couple reasons. First, Hollywood refused to make it, and Mel Gibson had to go to Italy to make it with the Italian film industry. But most of all, I knew several back-slidden Christians who re-dedicated their lives to the Lord directly because of that movie, watching what Jesus went through for them. And it was an incredibly well-done, historically and spiritually accurate movie, IMHO.
The Holy Spirit told me, “Protestants could not have made that movie. You do not understand my suffering at the level that the Catholics do. Yes, you understand it, but I have given the Catholics a much deeper understanding of it than I’ve given Protestants. In the same way, I’ve given Protestants a deeper understanding of my resurrection than I’ve given to Catholics. They understand the resurrection too, but I’ve given you Protestants a deeper understanding of it.
“You see, Dave, I’m infinite. I am too big to be completely understood by any single group of finite human beings. So I’ve revealed different parts of myself more deeply to different denominations. You need to spend your time learning from each other, from the things they understand about me that you do not, rather than bickering with each other about what you understand that they do not.”
Wow. That rocked my world. I repented for my judgements in my heart toward Catholics, and even toward other Protestant denominations I have differences with.
Since then, regardless of what theological differences I have with certain groups, when I’m with them, I try to find what they understand about God that I don’t. And learn from them. I’m coming to appreciate crucifixes.
Now certainly there are a certain set of core beliefs, “the main and plain,” that you really can’t call yourself “Christian” without adhering to. Janet and my list is at the bottom of our About Us page. I’m taking it granted here we all agree on those basic tenants of Christianity.
But beyond that, I don’t think theological differences are necessarily a bad thing, as long as they don’t cause us to judge or break fellowship with each other. We can agree to disagree about certain things and that’s ok. But if we’re going to fellowship with each other side-by-side in heaven, why can’t we do so now?
One thing we love about volunteering at our local pro-life crisis pregnancy center is all the different people from all different denominations coming together in unity around a common mission—saving and transforming lives. It’s a reflection of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.
What do you think? Have you had experiences where other denominations blessed you when you weren’t expecting it? We’d love to hear that story in the comments or shoot us an email. And please share if you think this would bless someone else.