The famous 20th century scholar T. R. Glover once said, “Whatever you think, someone thinks differently.” This is true in all kinds of ways but especially in the church. The late William Barclay applied this Glover quote to the church in three ways.
1. It is true of worship, prayers and all kinds of expressions of love for God and faith in Christ.
If you have been around for long you are well aware that there is a wide diversity within the church over worship practice. Liturgy or free form? Spontaneity or planned expressions? In this there is no absolute right or absolute wrong. There is a great need for continued discussion and for the type of wisdom that learns and thinks.
The liturgists must not despise simple people and their plain expressions of devotion while the simple people must not say that anyone who loves liturgy is removed from true love for Jesus. Let us worship the true and living God in Jesus Christ and not despise those who disagree with us.
2. It is true of the life we share in the church.
Some think the church should have a highly organized structure and others think the structure of each church should be extremely minimal. Some have an austere view of the church and think that the church should confine all Christian meetings to “religious” events and never to social or other similar gatherings. Again, freedom is advisable. Tastes vary and decorum for one person is deadness to another.
Those who like things as they are should not attack those who see the need for reform while those who want reformation should not look down on those who are happy with things as they are. (This is very hard for me to practice so I’m preaching to myself on this point!)
One side thinks the others is too narrow while the other criticizes their brothers and sisters for their worldliness. On and on we can make this same point. Inside the church and its routine life and practice there are many thoughts and ideas.
3. It is true of the Bible
There are those who think that every single argument can be settled by an appeal to the Bible. They say, quite regularly, “The Bible says . . .” This is generally the great stopper to all further discussion. Who wants to disagree with the Bible if they love Jesus and the church. On the other side there are those who think no word of the Bible has any real binding authority at all, or at least most of it doesn’t. It is just a human book. Because the Bible is not a book of science they then assume it is not a book we can trust about God or human morality and obedience.
On one side the fundamentalist appeals to the perfection of the Bible, all the while using their favorite English translation, while on the other side the liberal appeals to modern knowledge and science in a manner that seems to routinely find reasons to reject some difficult part of Scripture.
There is something to be said for both ends of this spectrum and everything in between. But let no one on either side think of the other as non-Christian unless there is a clear denial of the Jesus of the Bible. (This is something most of us can never determine anyway since this authority has not been privately given!) The unyielding attitude of many inside the church is a great harm to the well-being of the church and leads us to think that what we are thinking is the only right way to think.
If we pursue the grace of Christ together, and put on love, then we can learn how to love one another and disagree. The older I get the more I disagree with some ideas and some of the people who hold them. But I also find that the more I put on love and remember someone else thinks differently than I do the more easy I’ve found it is to accept people. I now know that what I am thinking is not what they are thinking. This always makes me pause and ask more questions, especially those kinds of questions that are aimed at me and my own thinking. I believe this is part of putting on the mind of Christ, a humble mind that listens and learns.