A conversation found its way into my office today. It's one that I've heard dozens of times throughout my life, and the arguments from both sides are usually the same. I typically (and happily) take on the role of pacifier in these instances because I feel there isn't a right or wrong answer, and at the end of the day, I don't think anyone is going to switch sides. The good news is (though, I don't think the opposing parties always see it this way): we're actually on the same team! Yes, I'm talking to you, Protestants and Catholics.
For centuries, this argument has persisted with momentum and it generates great animosity within our shared faith. Catholicism and Protestantism are both divisions of Christianity. Divisions -- the state of having been divided. I can't help but recall Abraham Lincoln's wise words: "A house divided against itself cannot stand." And this isn't just any house; this is God's house.
Satan must have been cheering on the sidelines as he saw the church splitting back in 1517. Don't get me wrong: I respect the history of the events leading up to the creation of the Lutheran Church, and I in no way intend to place blame on either faiths. My point is this: if both sides could cease from nit-picking the others' traditions or lack thereof, couldn't we focus on our shared goals -- winning souls for Christ?
So, some of us drink wine and the others unfermented grape juice. Some of us baptizes babies and the others children/adults. Some of us sing from hymnals and the others off digital screens. Some of us repent of our sins in confessionals and the others perhaps on the ride to work. I know that there are greater differences than these, but I'd rather not focus on what divides us. I'd like to take a look at what or rather whom we share -- the amazing Savior we both serve and worship, albeit in different ways.
To be fair, this division isn't just present among Catholics and Protestants. The World Christian Encyclopedia estimates that there are some 33,000 denominations within Protestantism. That's 33,000 churches out there questioning each other's orthodoxy. I wish I had a dollar for every time I walked out a church door and heard someone complaining about a tradition, or a song, or a preacher, or a message...Folks, I think we're missing the big picture!
We're distracted. We're caught up in the intricacies of religion. That was never Jesus' intent when He died on the cross. At the risk of sound all kumbaya and naively optimistic, isn't it time to put our differing opinions aside and do God's work? We can debate tradition and rituals until we die, but that will get us nowhere. And think about all the time we're wasting. What must a non-believer think when s/he hears the bickering between churches?
You're free to choose your denomination/religion -- that's the beauty of being an American. But I'll end on this: celebrate what you stand for, celebrate what you believe -- not what you disagree with.