"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Friday, September 23, 2011

Reconcilable Differences - 2

Reconcilable Differences - 2

     Not long ago Jerry and I watched The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I couldn't do anything for a long time after it was over but sit and stare, chest and throat tight, as scenes replayed in my mind and I thought about how adults teach children prejudice.
     It reminded me of a conversation I had with our youngest granddaughter when she entered kindergarten last year. Our daughter Becky was chrismated in the Russian Orthodox church just before she married a Roman Catholic man. Now they live in Oklahoma and attend a Catholic church. When the time came, Becky enrolled our 5-year old granddaughter Katherine in a Catholic kindergarten.
     I had spoken of God to Katherine from her infancy. We had had simple sweet moments of fellowship together. I was careful never to say anything to conflict with or criticize the Catholic church. Katherine spontaneously gave herself to God last year and drew me a picture of her doing so for my birthday--one of the best birthday presents I ever received.
     In mid-October Katherine and I were chatting over our Ojo video phones and suddenly she asked, "Grandma, do you go to a Catholic church?"
     "No." I felt exposed.
     "Then you probably aren't a Christian."
     So now it begins. "Yes I am!"
     "You probably don't love Jesus."
     I was saddened. "Yes I do!"
     We left it there but I wondered whether something had been said by one of her teachers. Maybe the line had been drawn between the innies and the outies, between "us" and "them." I wondered what conclusion Katherine had come to about me as a result of our talk. I wondered whether Becky had been within earshot of it and what she thought--about Katherine's questions, about my answers, about my faith.
     A few weeks later Becky commented to me, "Today Katherine said, 'Both my grandmas are sticklers for Jesus, aren't they?'" (Her other Grandma is Catholic.) So maybe Katherine realizes Jesus Christ is the common denominator, that it is the relationship with Him that matters.
     But it makes me sad that something may be trying to drive a wedge between my granddaughter and me in spite of the fact we both know and love the Lord. But many of our Protestant schools and churches do the same thing. It is drilled into us: "Catholics aren't Christians. Catholics aren't saved. Catholics are relying on their own works to get into heaven and therefore can't go there."
     I beg to differ. Some Catholics are Christian. Some Protestants are. And some Orthodox are. In every one of these forms of Christendom there are people who are not only members of their organization but branches drawing life from the True Vine.
     There are Jews who know their Messiah. There are Muslims (I know of several) who may still think of themselves as Muslims but are following the way of Isa, whom they read about in the Koran and whose words in the New Testament they believe and seek to obey, who are personally connected to Him by faith. I am going to boldly assert that these believers are every bit as much Christians as the rest of us. 
     "God has given us eternal life and this life is in his Son;" the apostle John points out in I John 5:11-13, "anyone who has the Son has life, anyone who does not have the Son does not have life. I have written all this to you so that you who believe in the name of the Son of God may be sure that you have eternal life." (This is from a Catholic version of the Bible, by the way, the Jerusalem Bible.)
    These individuals compose the invisible body of Christ on earth. There are undoubtedly believers in every part of the world who attend no church at all but have put faith in Jesus Christ, having heard of him somehow, maybe met Him in dreams, even though they don't know that what they have, what they are, has a label.

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