But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners… Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith. If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. ~ Rom. 4:5, 13-14, NLT
I no longer try to convert other Christians to the Church of Christ.
Growing up I was taught that the Church of Christ was the only church going to heaven. We had a corner on the market and all the others were wrong for various reasons. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered most churches teach this belief to some extent but put their own church in the “in” group.
Even as a young adult, I believed this message so much that when I was first dating my husband and I discovered he was going to a community church, I freaked out and broke up with him. He had done nothing wrong other than going to a different church. I’m thankful we did stay friends and kept talking to each other. Now we’ve been married for almost 15 years. Though we both go to the Church of Christ, it is no longer because we believe they are the only ones who are “right.”
So what does make a church the right one? Why are there so many out there trying to convert members of other churches to theirs?
As I’ve dove deeper into God’s Word I’ve learned, the name over our door doesn’t matter as much as we think. Any church who tells you you’re made right with God for any reason other than putting your “faith in God who forgives sinners” is not teaching the truth.
If they are telling you that you must show up three times a week, tithe 10%, sing with or without instruments, dress a certain way, say special words in prayer… they aren’t teaching truth. Yes, those things are beneficial. I’m not saying we should stop doing them, but I am saying if our reason for doing them is to be made right with God then our faith is in the wrong thing.
But what about all those things we have to do? What about following God’s law?
Jesus says during the last supper, “A new command I give you: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” (John 14:34)
Then in Romans Paul writes,
…If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commands say, ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.’ These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfill the requirements of God’s law. Romans 13:8-10, NLT
Jesus and Paul are saying God’s law boils down loving others. Yes, we have examples of what that looks like, and yes, Peter and Paul both gives lists of how to practically live out loving others in our everyday lives, but these lists are not prescriptive checklists for us to be right with God.
The different churches seem to choose to focus on different parts of the New Testament over others and create checklist out of them. The Church of Christ focuses on meeting three times a week, especially on Sunday because that’s the example in Acts. They also choose to take communion every week, and most sing A Cappella because that’s the example given by the early church. However, I don’t believe any of those things are necessary to me being made right with God.
I do believe meeting with other Christians is good and needed. I can’t exactly love others if I’m never around them, and some of my seasons of growth in Christ have come from our regular church meetings. I do believe that taking communion is important because Christ asked us to remember him in that way, but I don’t think the frequency that we take it matters. I do believe we need to praise God, especially out of thankfulness for what he’s done for me, but with instruments or without is not important—it’s my heart.
Paul writes further in Romans:
I know what enthusiasm they have to God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God. Romans 10:2-4, NLT
As I study Galatians and Romans, I’m learning being right with God is about where I put my trust. Not the name over the door. Today, consider are you putting your faith in Christ to make you right with God or are you putting your faith in a prescriptive to-do list?