Hope for Finding Common Ground
I’m always excited to meet other believers in Yeshua, regardless of affiliation or relationship to the Messianic Jewish movement. Recently, we were getting to know another believing family, and over the course of those first few awkward moments of getting acquainted, the young father asked me, “So, what kind of music do you like?” Now, being a musician myself, this was not a strange question to me—in fact, it was one which I could readily answer. Yet within me, it struck a dissonant chord of superficiality. Here we were: two men in Yeshua, two fathers of sons, meeting for the first time, and our best point of connection was the kind of music I like?
While one’s taste in music may be shallow common ground for planting a relationship, believers in Yeshua have been known to build on less. But what about more substantial issues, such as controversial doctrines? Are shared beliefs on things like “once saved, always saved,” predestination, baptism, speaking in tongues, or whether or not Christians are required to keep Torah, enough to establish the foundation for deep, enduring relationships? Or perhaps we can find our camaraderie over slightly less contentious matters, such as style of worship, method of prayer, or manner of preaching?
But what happens when our tastes change? What if our doctrinal perspectives shift? How can a relationship built on personal preference or position papers survive such a transformation? The problem is, no amount of shared likes and dislikes, religious kinship, or even tolerance for differing points of view is sufficient ground upon which to establish a relationship… much less build the Body of Messiah. Uniting solely or even primarily on such fronts will appear to work for a time, but eventually—as we experience change—the ties that bind us will strain and ultimately break. No, our relationships need to be built upon something far more reliable; something beyond man’s ability to bend.
If we are to have any hope for true agreement, unity and partnership with one another, we must first submit our lifestyles and beliefs to a single, objective, unwavering voice of truth; one that cannot be changed over time, or subjugated to man’s ever-evolving conclusions. Before we can forge a relationship with one more family, friend, community or cause, we need to be sure that relationship will be guided and governed solely according to God’s will, and never by our own understanding. We cannot build either ourselves or the Body of Messiah on the shifting sands of men’s preconceptions, preferences, or precepts. We must only build on the sovereign, solid rock of God’s Word… we must first and foremost bear the standard of Scripture.
We won’t produce lasting, effective relationships for Messiah if we choose to invest our time and resources into people based simply on how much we enjoy their company, or whether we walk the same doctrinal lines, or because we have certain lifestyle-related things in common. Indeed, we need to be on guard to not carelessly yoke ourselves together with believers who do not share our level of commitment to the Master Yeshua, as well as our single-minded dedication to uphold the standard of Scripture. As mature disciples of Messiah, we must allow Scripture to establish and define our relationships with one another. Only then, in the light of God’s pure, perfect Word, can we have confidence that our relationships are of Him. Let us raise the banner of Scripture to one another as the sole standard by which we will be led through life. Then, as we begin walking together in unison, we will see that we’re in step with the same, simple song.
What do you think? Share your thoughts below.
This “Word from Kevin” was previously published in Messianic Jewish Issues.
Kevin – great article! Your depth of getting to the real meat of the matter has always amazed me. Start with Yeshua and all the rest will take care of itself.
I happen to come from a multiple faith background within my family, and I work closely with multiple faith pastoral assistants where I work. What we have in common is faith in Yeshua, prayer, and praise to and for God. Although I don’t ask about thier doctrine they often ask about mine and I am glad to share. Keeping the 7th day Sabbath and Biblical Holy Days puts me out there as a wittness weither I want to be one or not. My faith is action—in doing for others out of love and concern for thier welfare. It is how I demonstrate my faith.
Kevin, Your article is both excellent and timely. As we mature in Yeshua, many of us begin to see some of our beliefs and perspectives change. Recently, I have had to to seriously re-evaluate my congregational relationship, basing my decision solely on the Scripture. Your article clearly lays out the issues that surface as we grow and it points to the only important criteria – Yeshua and HIS final word “as the sole standard”.
I fully agree. You concluded, “Let us raise the banner of Scripture to one another as the sole standard by which we will be led through life.” When we do, and do so seriously, we often find ourselves taking definite position on doctrinal issues that divide us. I think this is unavoidable. Often there is a still higher plane from which Scripture needs to be seen. If we can find that plane we often find that those seemingly unreconciliable differences are reconciled.
Agreed, Lyle. I think you’re going to like my new book! http://www.bearingthestandard.org/
I am confused. Do we have to follow Abba’s instruction? I don’t see any way for the christians to say they can do this or that and be in right relationship. I am not talking about being saved. I agree that is the work Yeshua did for all. But if his Spirit lives in them/us how can the lawlessness be ok? What are your thoughts? Do we follow the instructions, or just flow in the way etc etc?
What are you talking about? You say, “we must allow Scripture to establish and define our relationships with one another.” What does that mean? No one has it right. Especially me. But if I want to be loved, I must love. If we block out people because we don’t agree with them, then we find ourselves alone. We are not called to judge but to encourage. I have yet to experience a relationship with a follower of Yeshua that did not devolve into a judgmental relationship. You say, “The problem is, no amount of shared likes and dislikes, religious kinship, or even tolerance for differing points of view is sufficient ground upon which to establish a relationship…” But I disagree. It is the utmost arrogance to burden someone with your personal understanding of Scripture. You meet people where they are. We need to quit trying to “fix” people and let G-d do His job.
Yes and Amen!! Well said.
Ok. While I agree wholeheartedly that our relationships should be grounded in the fellowship of suffering, and that we ought to adhere to scripture in terms of how to relate to one another- I’d like a “how-to” achieve this.
Finding even one person with the same level of commitment has been a failure, regardless of differences in doctrine. While I am certain that this has much to do with where I live- ranch country, the issue is broad enough to warrant question.
For many, fellowship within the congregation has devolved into social hour. And many are invested in keeping it that way. While I do believe that, with God’s help, we can reach a much higher plane with one another through Yeshua, how do we go about gently persuading others that this is a desirable thing? How do we get past the superficiality of pot luck dinners and converse about the fellowship of suffering, without alienating?
The question here regards stubborn human behavior, and how do we propose to fix it. It’s too big for us. If a man’s heart is not submitted, if he shows no desire to grow in Yeshua, all the prayers, human examples or words will not draw him closer to God.
I have not chosen to yolk myself together with others who, in my estimation, disregard scripture blatantly, or have other motives in pursuing friendship. And I have found myself largely alone.
“I’d like a “how-to” achieve this.” You hit the nail on the head, Aggie. I am hoping that my new book will help! http://www.bearingthestandard.org/
VERY well said Kevin! Myself and my dearest friend have been in conversation about this very topic since we met each other a year and a half ago. One of your readers commented “God meets us where we are”, but my comment is “It is time we met God where HE is at.” If God meets us where we are at, WE are NOT growing and WE are NOT fulfilling OUR responsibility as believers in Messiah to be as HE created us…….TO BE LIKE HIM, in HIS image.
I refuse to compromise the WORD of GOD under any circumstances. It has also left me somewhat alone in terms of how man views alone, but God honors those who honor Him. It is not Love if we continue to allow people to believe that it is Ok to compromise God’s Standards.
The Scripture is the standard by which we are to live by and by which we are to have relationships. These standards (Torah) are only difficult because Man makes them difficult, not because God makes them difficult. Our continual resistance to God’s ways only blocks our path to the blessings that God has for us. Choose the path of least resistance by choosing the God of Israel AND HIS WAYS.
Thank You for your article Kevin. I pray the knowledge of this truth will set God’s people free.
This is one of the biggest and saddest realities I have run into the church go-er circles. Yehudit hit the nail on the head! It is really not about where one is or is not. Sadly it has become all about western churchianity making the whole thing about the individual == me, me, me, myself, what do I get out of this relationship with YHWH?, what can I learn from it?, what is my reward?, how good will I look?, who will see me look good?, etc. The very foundation of ignoring the Old Testament and half-reading the New leads them/us to this erroneous, dangerous conclusion.
I grew up in the church of western thought (at least 4 widely divergent denominations throughout my life) and there is NOWHERE taught that this life, this Word, is about HIM and NOT about us. The topic is taboo!! Look at the millions of self help books that line the so-called “Christian bookstore” shelves for proof! Yehudit, your comment posted about us needing to meet Him where HE IS is absolutely right and spot on in my experience. Amen!!
Thank you Kevin, for your willingness to be used of Him personally to point us to where we belong! I can’t wait to read the new book. We have been using the Passover book for three years and it is such a blessing!
love this! I am by far still a child learning at His feet,, over and over He shows me His grace and I am humbled. Let me be able to show this to others without overbearence,or I have lost the purpose of being His light.
Thank you Kevin! as always you are being used to teach us.