By Anthony Casperson
Earlier this week I was having a conversation with a few people. The conversation moved to one of those topics where everyone has an opinion and can lead to theological arguments that span books. (I’m not giving the specifics of the conversation’s topic because it was part of a private conversation that has no reason to be splayed all over the internet.)
The people involved in the conversation turned to me and asked my opinion: the one thing I was hoping wouldn’t happen. I have a general understanding of the concept, but am no expert. However, I know one thing that needs to be said about the topic (and many others) that often is not stated. So, I began my response with this…
There is always forgiveness.
We followers of Jesus disagree about a great many topics. Every denomination, every subset of Christians, is because of a difference of opinion about theological topics. Some of those differences are small. But some a bit bigger…up to and including saying that those who follow a specific opinion are sinning. Some say that actions performed, in good faith, by other fellow followers of Jesus are against God’s will.
And often the disagreement leads us to continually put down those who hold this difference of opinion, sometimes trying to “convert” these people to our point of view. But we forget that people who hold different opinions (even “sinful” ones) are still our brothers and sisters in Jesus. As long as they have come to accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we are to love them like Jesus loves them. And he died for them just as much as he died for us.
We are called to love like God loves. God, who sacrificed himself for his enemies. God, who has such grace that he gives eternal life to sinners. That God, who did all of that for us, is the same God who works in the lives of others, even if what they do looks like sin to us.
I’m not saying that there isn’t a proper theology. God knows what he meant in every part of his writing, even if it sometimes gets cloudy to us. His theology is proper theology. But the point is that even if there is a point of disagreement with someone else, our calling is to love, care for, and stand beside them, just as Jesus stands beside them.
And if what a person or group of people believe is actually against the will of God, he’s big enough to forgive it. I am convinced that there are consequences for all sin, but the loss of God’s love isn’t one of them.
There is always forgiveness.
But that constant offer of forgiveness shouldn’t make us feel like we no longer need to figure out the truth of what God means in the bible. Just because we can be forgiven for ungodly theology doesn’t mean that we should stop pursuing God’s intended meaning for our lives.
Talking about the freedom that God’s grace gives us, Paul asks rhetorically in Romans 6:1 if we should just sin all the more because that just means more grace for us. But he answers his own question in the next verse with a strongly-worded “NO.” And Paul’s statements in Romans can be applied to our point here. The forgiveness gives us freedom from guilt, not the freedom to follow after everything other than God.
So, pursue God. Learn his ways from his word. Seek to grow to be like him. If you disagree theologically with a fellow follower of Jesus, love them, stand up for them, care for them, encourage them, act like God would to them, and remember…
There is always forgiveness. (For you and for others.)