I wanted to share a few thoughts on doctrines and how they can affect our relationships. I need to say up front that I firmly believe that embracing sound doctrine is a good thing and following false doctrine is the fast road to ruin. This note isn’t about the value of having sound doctrine – it’s more about how we prioritize doctrine in our lives – particularly as doctrines come into conflict.
I have thousands of friends on Facebook; Catholics, Protestants, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Mormons, Mystics and many more. They all have different beliefs about God. Their beliefs can be called their ‘doctrines’.
Many of us have been taught to separate society into two groups – one group with ‘right’ doctrine, and another with ‘wrong’ doctrine. We’re taught to associate only with people who have ‘right’ doctrine and to avoid people with ‘wrong’ doctrine.
I have this problem…Jesus didn’t die to give me right doctrine. He died to give me His life, which He lives inside of me 24/7, even when I’m not conscious of it. Jesus died for people, not doctrine. And you are one of those people that He died for. If He values you that highly, I must do so as well. I must value people more highly than I value belief systems. God isn’t a belief system – He lives outside of any belief system man ever came up with, though some people seem to have made some kind of god out of their belief system.
When I run into people with doctrines I don’t fully agree with, I keep in mind the fact that the things I believe about God today are radically different from the things I believed about Him 5 years ago. And 5 years from now – my beliefs will be even more different from today. My doctrines (the things I believe about God) are always in a state of change.
So how do I deal with people that I disagree with, doctrinally?
I have a couple of choices:
1) I can reject them as a person, because of their doctrine. In doing this – I choose to make doctrine more important than the person. That’s not consistent with the life Jesus lived, nor the value He places on each of us.
2) I can accept their doctrine, which as the Graceful Banker would say, is a matter of whether it produces light, life and love.
3) I can accept them as a person – regardless of their doctrine. This is the choice I usually make, if it seems like we have some things in common, around which we can build a friendship.
If I find a person’s doctrine to be objectionable, I have to make the decision about whether it’s so horribly weird that I can’t possibly be friends with them. I’m not going to say that’s never happened – it has. But it’s extremely rare.
If want to influence them in any way, (leadership is nothing more than influence) like say in the area of doctrine, I have to build a bridge of relationship with them first. If they’re going to heed my instruction, they must first trust me.
If I build a strong enough relationship with them over time, there may come a day when an opportunity arises where I can discuss their beliefs (doctrine) with them. But in every case I can think of – when I tried to correct someone’s doctrine before establishing a relationship of trust with them – they rejected my views and continued believing their ‘false’ doctrine.
Most of the people I respect are accused heretics. I’ve been accused of heresy more times than I can remember. Some people just don’t like our doctrines and that’s a shame, because our beliefs should never be a barrier to loving people.