It is time for men and women of good will, from all walks of life, and from all faith traditions to set aside their theological differences and become built to love. It’s time to quit being like the Levite and the priest—with our noses so buried in tradition and theology that we overlook or pass by the wounded and the weary along the roadsides of life. We must become more like the Samaritan, who demonstrated pure love. (See Luke 10:25-37.) The time has come to set aside the lesser doctrines and focus on the “weightier” matters. (Matthew 23:23.) Love! Love, my dogma-oriented friends, is the gospel of Jesus Christ, not a series of rules, regulations, traditions, practices, tenets, theologies, duties, creeds, assignments and so on. To Jesus, how you feel and then act toward others is so much more important than what you believe. Your humanity matters more than your theology.
Why do you think Jesus repeatedly made the theologically-apostate Samaritans or publicans the heroes of his stories?
I love the way James puts it. “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:19-20.) In other words, “Do you think you worship the true God? Your faith is monotheistic? Big deal, the devils also believe in one god.” God doesn’t care if your theological conception of him is correct if you can’t visit the sick, feed the hungry and clothe the naked. “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” (James 2:14-16.) “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction ….” (James 1:27.)
Doctrine, dogma … that’s not love. Having a correct theological understanding … that’s not love. That’s not at the core of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why do you think Jesus constantly railed on those of his own faith tradition, the Pharisees? Why do you think Jesus repeatedly made the theologically-apostate Samaritans or publicans the heroes of his stories? Because what you feel matters so much more than what you believe. Right action trumps right belief every single time. The religion of Jesus was the religion of love and common human decency, not dogmas, programs or theologies. Feeling love for others, showing love for others … those were the “weightier” matters to Jesus.
It’s time to get our priorities straight. It’s time to build God’s kingdom, not by converting the world to the theologically precise concept of God but to the theologically abstract and universal concepts that Jesus taught—common decency, respect and love.
Instead of focusing on what divides us, we should be striving to find common ground, looking for what unites us.
I call upon you, as an individual, to become built to love. But I also call upon leaders of churches and congregations everywhere. I call upon pastors, priests and preachers. I call upon bishops, cardinals and ministers. The time has come to set aside your theological differences to the degree necessary that you can work together to stem the dark tides of evil, terrorism and hatred rising in the world today. If we remain divided, we remain distracted. If we remain distracted, evil will continue to grow. It is incumbent upon us, as disciples of Jesus Christ, to rise above our theological differences and work together to stem the tide of evil and hatred in the world today. Instead of focusing on what divides us, we should be striving to find common ground, looking for what unites us.
People of faith everywhere should be pooling their resources to feed each other and the world. Instead of spending millions on self-serving ministries, we need to work together to better take care of the sick and eradicate the proliferation of disease. Instead of kingdom builders we need builders of the Kingdom. Instead of using so many of our resources to compete for converts, we ought to be using more of our resources to educate and heal the world, dig wells that provide clean water, and clothe naked children. We ought to be diverting more of our resources to building up and nurturing humanity. Wouldn’t we bring more people to Jesus Christ if we showed the world what being a disciple of Jesus Christ truly meant? Wouldn’t they see the good that we Christians can do and want to be a part of something so great? The world won’t care what we know until it knows how much we care.
It’s our choice. The world will change either with us or without us. Jesus Christ will come again and he will have a world that is ready to receive him. He will have a world that is built to love. Our hearts will be softened and knit together in unity and love, either by the calamities and destruction that is foretold or through our own volition. The choice is ours.