My wife and I own a rooming house, an old place built in 1920. It’s got a great history and has always been a rooming house.
Last night around 10PM, a young lady who’s lived with us the past year, came by my second-floor office with her fiancé to pay her rent. I spoke with the couple until 11:30. We covered many topics including their wedding plans. Apparently there’s a hitch in their plans for getting hitched; she’s a Catholic and he’s Church of Christ, both denominations that I have been a part of in my past.
This young lady – a pretty girl who, incidentally, is interested in trying out for the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders – mentioned that, in an effort to fit in with all her college classmates and maximize her college experience, she frequently attended regularly-scheduled events around town that are made possible by Protestant denominations. With a pout, she informed me that she really enjoyed attending, however, she added, “As soon as it got around that I was Catholic, all of a sudden, no one would hang around with me.”
Religion rears its ugly head.
A few days ago, my wife and I attended my uncle’s funeral mass. The pews were packed and wonderfully talented singers and musicians performed several times. I can’t remember so many songs being sung in a Catholic mass and couldn’t help but notice how the lyrics were ALL about Jesus Christ…the SAME Jesus my wife and I know and love! It was great! Very uplifting.
About my wonderful wife, a woman whom I often refer to as “Baptist Barb,” she said she enjoyed it, too, her first time EVER in a Catholic Church.
We agreed that it was great being with a bunch of people who so reverenced our Lord and it really was a joy to sing songs we’d never sung before, all directed at our mutual love for God AND country as it was military funeral with a flag-draped coffin, honor guard and, of course, heart-wrenching TAPS.
There was one off-moment which Barbara actually found humorous. We had decided to take communion with my family. Apparently, Barb didn’t do what fifty Catholics had done before her: she neglected to bow, nor did she hold her palms out to receive the wafer. She later told me how the priest looked at her funny and asked, “Can you take this?” Letting her actions speak louder than her words, she reached out and gently plucked the bread from the priest between her thumb and forefinger.
Yep. She took it!
In that moment, though it wasn’t a big deal, at that moment, Religion separated us from nearly everyone in the place. It’s odd to me how we can salute the same flag, root for the same football team, go to the same doctor, shop the same stores…but like Cain and Able, brothers who worshipped God in different ways, we too often open the door to dissension, division and sectarianism.
One Saturday, while I was taking part in an interdenominational door-knocking event, along with two women from different churches, we approached a nearly-blind, 130-year old woman sitting on her porch with her dog. I LOVE talking to older citizens and said something like, “Wow! In 103 years, you’ve seen America change in SO many ways, haven’t you?”
She responded, suddenly quite serious, “Yes, and it hasn’t all been good.”
I pressed her for an explanation. Among the things she was referring to, she included, “One of the worst things I’ve seen has been the rise of denominationalism.”
At that moment, I recall wishing I was carrying a video recorder,.
Is it coming between you and anyone you know? That young couple in my office last night loved each other far too much to allow it to rear its head and attempt to keep them from spending their lives together. Yes, their choice of marriage partners was going to force parents and grandparents to stretch beyond their comfort zones, but these two refused to allow their own religious prejudices to keep them from making their own memory instead of the memory of their kinfolk.
The world is watching, dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
The world is shown our example too often on the evening news. We are observed in the supermarket, in the workplace, in the boardrooms and the schoolrooms. Rather than making the world jealous for what we claim to have found in Jesus, we are more like the #1 cause for atheism, far too irrelevant most of the time.
In John 17:11, Jesus prayed: “Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that THEY WILL BE UNITED just as we are.”
He wasn’t talking about all of us embracing manmade doctrines or traditions. He wasn’t talking about our mode of dress, or all of us being joined at the hip.
I contend that He was talking about ALL OF US walking in obedience to the Holy Spirit that dwells within us (Rom 8:11), doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Jesus said, “Love one another.”
1 Peter 4:8 encourages us with these words: “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”
We can – and we MUST – do better, resisting every tendency to “act religious.”