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In saying this, I’m not indicating that that all methodologies and systems are equally effective, or that all doctrine preached everywhere is right. Should we aspire to the best methods and the most accurate doctrine? Absolutely! But we should also keep in mind what Paul said,
It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.
(Phil. 1:15-18 NLT)
A study of church history (and an observation of some churches and ministers today) reveals that Christian leaders have often been far less tolerant of those whose views differ from theirs. Many of the early Reformers and those who put Scripture into the language of the people were burned at the stake by a highly intolerant institutional church that felt it was their religious duty to maintain a monolithic establishment whose authority could not be questioned. Having borne the brunt of persecution for their divergent views, one might assume that the Reformers themselves would have been somewhat tolerant of those within their own general realm of belief who took differing views on particular issues. That was not really the case.

For example, Martin Luther led the Reformation in Germany and Ulrich Zwingli led it in Switzerland. When the two men finally met, they agreed on fourteen out of fifteen major theological foundations. However, they differed most vehemently on the meaning of communion. Luther held to a view that the real Presence of Christ is in the elements, whereas Zwingli believed in the Lord’s Supper as a memorial. Following vigorous debate, Luther refused to shake Zwingli’s hand, and said, “We are not of the same spirit.” He later questioned Zwingli’s salvation.

Having been painfully rebuffed by Luther, would Zwingli exhibit a tolerant attitude to those who differed with him? Hardly. When the Anabaptists in and near Zurich promoted adult baptism upon profession of faith (as opposed to infant baptism), Anabaptist leaders who refused to recant were drowned in the river that ran by Zwingli’s church. A bit later in Geneva, John Calvin stood by as a heretic named Servetus was burned at the stake.

A few centuries later, former friends, John Wesley and George Whitfield, both great preachers, would battle extensively and exchange harsh words over their different views regarding Calvinism and Arminianism. Fortunately, after years of feuding, both men resolved to co-exist peacefully while still holding divergent theological positions.

I’m not simply trying to air the dirty laundry of some great leaders from the past. No doubt they accomplished many great and historically significant things, but in endeavoring to stand for the truth, we must make sure that we ourselves don’t take on a spirit that is far from Christlike. Personally, I am committed to standing for the truth of God’s word.

Jude’s admonition is still urgent today:
Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.
(Jude 3, NLT) 

Having said that, I am also committed to doing this in a Christlike spirit, and I believe this is reflected in the wisdom of a statement made by a German theologian during the Thirty Years War in the early seventeenth century, “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.”

May God help us see the difference between principles which cannot be compromised and preferences which should be respected. May we stand boldly for truth, while walking strongly in love.

A final thought: I really do believe in food. And I’m happy if you want to enjoy a burrito, an egg roll, spaghetti, a kabob, quiche, or jambalaya. I just want it to be prepared in a clean kitchen with healthy ingredients. Bon appétit.

Copyright © Tony Cooke Ministries
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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