I believe its important to know what you believe, why you believe it and what your belief means to you. On a personal level I know that many of my beliefs are in a constant state of transition – by this I don’t mean I am double minded and constantly changing my mind; rather, I mean that I am on a journey where new information becomes available as new discoveries are made and I become challenged through that information journey. Some things are constant and are not up for change.
Among those beliefs are my belief in who Jesus is, who he said he is, what Jesus did and the demand that brings on my life. I can’t ever remember not believing in God. At the ripe age of 30 in 1997, I had an encounter with God where his Holy Spirit filled me to overflowing in the knowledge of what Christ had done for me. That my sins were totally washed away. That I was forgiven and was a new creation in Christ. That encounter had a tremendous impact on my life and is an experience that no one can argue me out of. Secondly that experience matches that of what is recorded in the Bible and so I have a secondary authoritative account to which I can say my experience matches that of the early church. They are deep core beliefs that will never be shaken.
There are other issues of faith and understanding that can be challenged. I used to read the Bible in a literal way. That is everything that is said was understood within a literal framework – from the lens of my own modern understanding. I had not learned to read the Bible through the historical context in which it was written. As time went by, I came to understand that the scriptures were a combination of history, prayers, lament, songs, prophecy, law, parable, and letters to others. I came to understand a little of ancient Greek in which the New Testament was written. My knowledge of Greek isn’t enough to translate; but it is enough to help me understand how the translation came about. ( I am also blessed that I know a number of people skilled in Greek whom I can draw on their expertise time to time.)
Over the last 16 years of my Christian journey, I have come to appreciate the journey of faith others are on. Many are far advanced in their knowledge and trust in God then I am. Others are mere babes. And yet others are still working out what it is they believe and don’t believe. And still others just don’t care. I look back at the people in my life who were the most instrumental in my coming to faith. They were men and women of prayer, patience, gentleness and wisdom. People who never told me I was wrong; instead were people who encouraged me to keep looking, keep searching and gently steering me in the right direction.
Then there were others who were destructive in my journey of faith. They were harsh. Belligerent. They were knowledgeable about the truth; but their actions and speech were not that of speaking the truth in love. They pulled down all who didn’t believe the same way they believed. There was little there which made Christ whom they preached attractive. For them faith became a morality of rules and regulations, framed in the context of believing exactly what they did, with no room for grey. Many in this category have what is called discernment type ministries. They discern the ministries of others. It doesn’t take long to discover their existence.
I believe these type of ministries cause more harm to the cause of Christianity then it does good. Jesus spoke wise words to his disciples through a parable of weeds which is found in Matt 13:27-30
27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
We need to take the encouragement of Jesus seriously that in our discernment of others, we don’t destroy the tender roots of others who are starting to believe.