What Sort of Disciple Are You?- John 19:35 (NIV), John 3:11

The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.

COMMENTARY

The man who saw it has given testimony, and he knows that he tells the truth
We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen
How did John know that his record of Jesus’s crucifixion was accurate? He saw it, and testified of that which he witnessed directly. Why was Jesus so bold in teaching new doctrine to Nicodemus? Because he was speaking that which he knew, testifying of things he had seen.
When one grows up in a faith-based community, it is easy to feel pressured to already know the realities of God and his gospel. We hear other people say that they know, and feel that something is wrong with us if we do not as well. We assume that because we have been taught about the gospel, we have a testimony of it. But to have been told something is not to know it.
I was told of God’s grace many times, and I believed in it. But that belief was nothing like the knowledge I obtained after I personally witnessed the power of Christ being used to forgive my sins and change my nature. So now I do not only believe, I even testify of its truth. At the same time, I honestly have not yet had any great spiritual awakening from fasting. I hear others say that it is a spiritually right thing to do, and so I have faith in it…but I cannot claim a testimony of it at this time.
Accepting that there are some aspects in which we lack a testimony is alright. We are, by our natures, born with the capacity for faith, but not with testimony. Testimony comes only by experience, and some things we just haven’t experienced yet. It is to be expected that we are still developing our direct knowledge, all that is required is that we foster the opportunities for it.

Respect in Our Differences- John 4:9-10, 19-21, 23

Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

COMMENTARY

For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans
The Father seeketh such to worship him

When Jesus attempted to travel through Samaria, they denied him entrance into their village. His disciples then asked him if they should call down fire to destroy that nation and he rebuked them for such a suggestion (Luke 9:51-56).
In the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, we see that Jesus still retains thoughtful concern for these children, and looks forward to a day that the boundaries between them can be broken. He makes clear that the Father still seeks for people like her to share in the riches of heaven.
I am convinced that the highest courts of heaven will be populated by Christians and Jews and Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists, and all other manner of sincere seekers for truth. If we try our best, but are somewhat misaligned, our trying is not going to be discounted because of it. Let us never forget, that in the end, “the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Respect in Our Differences- Romans 14:2-3, 5, 14-15

For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.

COMMENTARY

Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth
One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
Any moral code is going to stipulate some actions as being worthy and others as unworthy. This is not only true of the moral codes within organized religion, even a rubric as vague as “what’s currently trending in society” still advocates for certain behaviors over others. Of course, different moral codes will disagree with one another as to which actions are worthy and which are not.
Proponents of these different moral beliefs often waste a lot of time arguing their points to those that do not even subscribe to the same tenets. Because each side values entirely different criteria, the vast majority of these debates are completely pointless, destined to generate aggravation, not understanding.
Why don’t we take Paul’s advice? Let us maintain the code we truly believe in, and let others do the same. We do not have to demand that everyone else agree with us, only that they be sincere in their own morals.

But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
Tolerating another’s beliefs is good, but we can also take it a step further. Paul points out that we can take special care to not step on that which is sacred to others. Even if we don’t agree with all of their restrictions, we can govern ourselves by them while in their presence.
One does not even need to be religious do this, only socially polite. Those with vices still often put their cigarette out around non-smokers, choose jokes that don’t offend any present demographic, and avoid swearing around children.
Paul isn’t trying to tell us to be disingenuous, he simply wants us to be courteous.

Respect in Our Differences- Philippians 4:8, Articles of Faith 1:11, Matthew 7:12

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

COMMENTARY

If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things
Allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may
I have spent some time advocating for holding to your sincere beliefs, while also allowing all others the same privilege. So long as a religion genuinely improves the morality and spirituality of its patrons, then it should be recognized as a worthy vessel for good.
Perhaps you see some ideologies that are flawed, but which are still accomplishing far more good than harm. Would you want to risk destroying the 90% that is good, just to expunge the 10% that is flawed?

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them
Of course not all ideologies really are 90% good. I do not claim that all beliefs are valid. I have no patience for ideologies that call for the eradication of human life, and declare war on a specific demographic.
Creeds like these are logically self-defeating. One way to tell truth from error is whether the principle destroys itself when held in the hands of another. Consider religious intolerance. To wish to destroy another religious sect is to support a principle that would destroy you if held in the hands of another. Thus the notion is crushed under its own weight.
I also reject those that use spiritual trappings for predatory or manipulative purposes. There are ministries that promise blessings and healings…but only if one calls in and provides their credit card number.

In the end, I believe there is much that is good in this world, more good than we often realize. And I believe every source of good should be supported and celebrated. But I also believe that one must be cautious, for while many things are good, certainly not all things are.

Respect in Our Differences- John 13:35, Romans 12:5, Mark 9:33-35

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?
But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.
And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.

COMMENTARY

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another
So we, being many, are one body in Christ
I believe Christians sometimes believe that the body of Christ refers to their particular sect only, and not to any of the others. But why can it not be referring to all Christians?
Christ, himself, gave the definition for being one of his followers, and he did not say it was by being only a Catholic, or only a Lutheran, or only a Mormon. He said “men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” So if I have love for a Methodist and a Jehovah’s Witness, then what am I? A disciple of Christ. And if a Protestant and a Presbyterian have love for me, then what are they? Disciples of Christ. And if we do not have love for one another, then what are we? Not disciples.

They had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest
And he saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all
I believe many Christians also have a mistaken fantasy that when Christ comes again he will point to their church and say “This. This was the right one, and all the rest of you are wrong.” In essence, we, like the disciples of old, are hoping that Jesus will choose us as the greatest above all others. But Jesus cautions us that desires to be the greatest debase us to the lowest.
Let us suppose that your own religion teaches the absolute truth and mine is somewhat amiss. Yes, when Jesus comes He would need to then correct all of the misconceptions that I hold. But I am certain that he would not do this by wagging his finger and telling me just how wrong I am. Rather he would accept that I am striving for rightness, and lovingly show me how to be even more so.
It would be like a servant washing the feet of the disciples that still have a little dirt on them.

Respect in Our Differences- Luke 11:17

But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth

COMMENTARY

A house divided against a house falleth
Yesterday I told about a positive experience I had when another Christian and I shared our different beliefs, but it would be dishonest of me to pretend that all of my interactions with other Christians have been so positive. During my mission I would meet missionaries from other sects, who sometimes would approach me and challenge my beliefs. I would answer them defensively, and then I would try to point out flaws in their own beliefs. I was never gracious enough to just let the challenge go.
While these moment left me flushed with an intoxicating adrenaline, they absolutely did not make me feel closer to my Savior. I did not feel that I had nobly defended the truth against an enemy, I felt that I had dirtied myself in a petty squabble. A squabble with one who ought to be my friend.
It was infighting among the ranks of fellow Christians, and our line was weaker against the assaults of Satan because of it. The more we fight with each other, the more we do the adversary’s work for him. Are we then truly Christian? As Christ, himself, warned: a house divided against itself cannot stand.

Respect in Our Differences- Luke 9:49-50

And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.
And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.

COMMENTARY

And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name
And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us
During my mission I met a Christian of another sect. We had a brief conversation, and each of us expressed a curiosity to know how the other had come to follow the sect that they belonged to. We each shared our conversion experience, how we had felt God manifest to us the right path to follow. We congratulated one another on their discovery, and parted amicably.
And in the end, both of us still believed in the rightness of our own path. It is extremely easy for us to jump to the conclusion “if God told me to follow this path, then no other path can truly be following Him.” This line of thought leads one to judge others as foolish or deceived by evil.
For a moment, let us suppose that your particular niche of faith, whatever it might be, is the single, penultimate truth that God wishes for all of us to follow. Under this scenario, then yes, the variations in my belief would be detrimental, and they would be limiting me from my full potential. And yes, you would be well-justified in inviting me to a higher truth.
But that would not be the same as saying that I am against you. Because in the end, I am still trying to cast out devils. I am fighting against the forces of violence, lust, greed, and selfishness. And I am doing this in the name of Jesus Christ. I attest that he is the only one with power to defeat these evils and reclaim our souls.
Therefore, even if you think I am somewhat misaligned, Jesus has affirmed that I am misaligned in his general direction. He has recognized that I am for him. And even if I think you are a little misaligned, I do also appreciate that you are for him, too.