"There are some who quarrel about trivial and useless things, rashly and foolishly claim as many adherents as they can find, and then put up a defense as if the faith were at stake; thus this excellent name is weakened by their own strife and contention... the study of theology should be carried on not by the strife of disputations but rather by the practice of piety." -Philip Jacob Spener (Pia Desideria page 50)So many of the things which divide the church are actually so trivial. Take, for example, the debates about eschatology. Some folks are just so bent on a literal and futuristic interpretation of Revelation and other apocalyptic texts that they act like the whole faith is on the line. Some people act like belief in seven-day creation is just as vital as faith in Jesus Christ. I once had a man tell me that if I didn't believe that the events of the book of Joshua were historically and literally accurate then I was denying the cross altogether... a slight leap in logic, I thought.
We often create distinctions where distinctions don't belong. We place such importance on things that even Paul himself wouldn't have taken seriously and we overlook things that are actually vital to faith in Christ. We trade true faith for folly. We trade sharing with the poor for biblical literalism. We trade the "Body of Christ"--solidarity among people and mutual sharing--for "substitutionary atonement." We trade hope in the resurrection for hope for the "rapture." And we act like the whole weight of the Christian faith lays on these minor details and recent inventions. No wonder so many people confuse Christianity for being about bashing gays and voting republican.
What if instead of uniting under banners of theological precision and creedal confession we united under the banner of the Kingdom of God? What if what defined us was not a particular way of reading the Bible or a certain theory of atonement but a life lived for love? Jesus said that his people would be known by their love but by that definition we have made the church virtually invisible.