I was raised in a predominantly Charismatic & Pentecostal tradition. The first church that my husband pastored was a Congregational church, and we are currently at a nondenominational church with Lutheran roots. But in the midst of that, I have at least attended a service or two at a Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Orthodox, and Episcopalian church, just to name a few. I hope that list continues to grow.
The history of denominations can be a spotty one. Someone or group prefers this emphasis in the Bible so they create a church around that belief. Another assumes certain practices should have a greater role in the church so a group is created to foster that desire. Some feel ignored so they create a space where they can feel heard and build doctrines around it and so on and so forth. Often, because of this negative view, we within that world look at the other group with suspicion as if the other does not have the marks of a true Christian.
Humanity itself is quite diverse in its offerings. We range in color, language, cuisine, music and every other thing that you can imagine. Even within the small microcosm of our cities, we have different neighborhoods that have their own distinct characteristics. With that in mind, how hard would it be to wipe the slate clean and create a homogeneous society across the whole spectrum of humanity? Who’s culture would we pick? Can one culture translate well enough across the board? Dressing modestly might look a little different in Siberia than it would in the Sahara desert region. How does God work with all of this?
God among us
I think it is important to acknowledge that God came among us. He came to where we were and took on a nature that we could relate to in order to reach us. He appropriated the language and culture of the day as well as turned it on its head. He fulfilled expectations as well as added new ones. His message to us was enhanced by the backdrop of what already was and did away with them as well. He came in the midst of our understanding and spoke to us. Christ adapts to our ways but also transforms them. Our cultures, habits, and ways are but means by which God communicates to and through us. It is part of the beauty by which we were created.
There are no two people alike in this world. God comes in the midst of that and shows us Himself. No wonder why we find so many different denominations. Granted, there are certain theological beliefs that do transcend our cultural preference. So please do not think I am saying that all belief is relative to culture. As Christ’s body we can all hold to the basic premises confessed in the Apostles Creed (written below). Every Christian denomination I listed above holds to these essential truths of our common faith. Where I believe we differ many times are our cultural expression of that faith, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. My husband and I are COMPLETELY opposite in our upbringings, yet our common bond of Christ holds us together.
Yes, the Orthodox may like their long services, the Episcopalians their incense and the Pentecostals their joyful noise, but at the end of the day, our common bond is Christ. We are all doing our best with our limited understanding to serve the God that has brought us salvation. So let us extend an olive branch and embrace one another as we allow others the freedom to serve Jesus in the culture of Christianity that best suits them just as He has done for us.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; He descended into hell; on the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.