Whether we realize it or not, those of us coming from the secular world have been formed by those beliefs. When we become Christians we carry over many of those beliefs and they continue to inform our decisions. That is why I would like to stop and talk about the Church for a moment. If you are like I was and hold that organized religion is a crock, then I think you should reconsider. The first item I would like you to consider is your source. On what information are your beliefs about church based? Is it the secular world or disgruntled Christians? Both of which, if I had been thinking at the time and/or had a better understanding of the dissension between the world and God , I wouldn’t have considered them reliable sources of information regarding the Christian faith and/or the Catholic Church.
The Secular World
If you’ve read part two of my conversion story, then you can see that the different teachings of the secular world are in direct opposition to God: what defines a marriage, sex outside of marriage, and respect for life; to name a few. And being opposed to someone does not lead to viewing their beliefs in the most charitable light. In fact, it often leads to just the opposite: viewing them in the worst light possible. This is why, if you compare the teachings of the Bible, Church or Pope to what is reported to being taught/said, you will find they are rarely similar.
“The world . . . hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil.” John 7:7
“For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; And the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.” Psalm 69:9
Since the secular world is against God, then it follows that they will also be against those who hold to the instructions of God, namely, the Church. Here’s what it comes down to: out of the love of God and faith in His goodness we follow His teachings, while the world follows teachings of prominent people or their own desires. This puts us at odds with the world and the world with us. If we never said one word against anything the world does we would still be at odds because we would make different choices and work towards different goals. The world would still consider that a personal affront because it is a rejection of what they believe.
Now I, personally, know of no one smarter or anyone who has our best interests at heart than God, so when it comes down to a choice of believing the world or believing God I choose to believe God. If you, like me, were formed by the world, then my advice to you is to take some time and look at what the Catholic Church truly teaches. If you haven’t done that yet, then, like me, you’re not making an informed choice. It’s sad because the Catholic Church and those churches in communion with it, are the only ones that I know of whose teaching truly conforms to Jesus Christ. And I truly believe if God hadn’t led me directly to the Catholic Church and without a serious investigation to what the Church truly teaches I would have kept on the path I was treading, (and it wouldn’t have been Christ I was following then, but others), and been much the poorer for it.
As to those Christians who despise doctrine I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that they only say this because don’t like one or more of those doctrines or they don’t understand that love and salvation are the basis for those doctrines. Look at all the different sects in Protestantism. The main reasons there are so many sects is either because 1) there was a dispute over doctrine, or 2) someone decided that they could start their own sect. But let’s take a quick look at doctrinal disputes or to put it in simpler turns: the dispute over what to believe.
“For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, . . . ” 2 Timothy 4:3
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15
” . . . to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior.” Titus 2:10
As you can see, God does give us doctrine, but it must be sound. Sin is faithlessness to or ignorance of the true doctrines of God and either hate of or disregard for one’s neighbor. John 14:15 says love of God is at the basis of fidelity to His commandments, so faithlessness–that not done in ignorance–can also show a lack of love for God. Love is the basis for God sacrificing His Son, who is our salvation, and the doctrines of God. If we are not following these, then we are not loving God and neighbor. In other words we are ignoring both of the greatest commandments.
Reply to the accusation that Christians are hypocrites
Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” Matthew 9:13
As to the hypocrites in church, you probably realize by now that you’ve joined with other sinner’s in accepting God’s mercy, so, in effect, churches are filled with redeemed sinners aka hypocrites. Now I have seen how powerfully Lord Jesus acts when He converts us. Paul’s conversion experience on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-20) is a dramatic example of this. Not only does He change our purpose and direction, but He also changes us.
Saul before conversion:
“Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” Acts 9:1-2
The change in Saul that Lord Jesus will effect:
“But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.'” Acts 9:15-16
Saul after conversion:
“For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.'” Acts 9:19-20
“But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul. Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles.” Acts 13:45-46
It was the same, if not so dramatic, with the other apostles. Matthew just got up and left his tax collector job (Matthew 9:9), Peter and Andrew “left their nets” (Mark 1:17-18), and James and John “left their father” (Matthew 4:21-22): all of them to answer Christ’s call. As it was with the apostles, so it is with us. It’s an amazing thing to see and boggles the mind when contemplated. Externally nothing has changed: you look the same, you have the same job, you live in the same neighborhood, and you have the same couch. Internally, a great many things have changed. There has been a reordering so proper order could be restored: what was foolish now becomes wise and what was inconsequential now becomes important; all in the blink of an eye. In light of this, we can see why our lives, along with the apostles, would change so drastically. Because of this internal reordering we do immediately leave off some things in our lives and take up others in our new lives. But for all of that, some things haven’t changed. That’s why I say it’s a reordering rather than a renewal. He takes what we have and puts it in proper perspective. So Saul, being trained as a rabbi, has a theological background which when reordered can advance much quicker and have a much better understanding than those of us not playing with a full theological deck. We’re going to have a lot farther to go after our encounter with Christ just like the rest of the apostles. Their encounter with Christ truly altered their lives, but they were not perfected. That took discipleship, prayer, and the Holy Spirit. These twelve were the Church at that time and they were all redeemed sinners, who could have been considered hypocrites when it came to certain areas. As it was with the apostles, so it is with us.
What can make it easier on us is realizing, when coming from a secular background, that we may not have been informed with the truth. Since Lord Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, then it becomes very important that we investigate the beliefs we do hold, so that don’t hinder us in our new life in Christ.
May we all come to know and love the way, the truth, and the life! God bless!
Image courtesy of Karl Fredrickson @Unsplash