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“The Doctrine Conundrum” by: Aaron Tilbury

Recently, I’ve been blessed with the expansion of relationship with other brothers and sisters outside my direct church family – and like The Gospel will do – like JESUS will do – those lines become blurred and the family just becomes …well…more family. Still church…still the body…just MORE connected.

In this season I’ve been given the grace to walk through some doors in ministry to young people at a local high school. Which in turn has young people loving one another, which in turn has teachers asking “How?” and allows us to once again say, “Jesus.” Awesome grace and utterly without merit by us.

Maybe as significantly for me, I have been walked and hand-held by Christ and His Holy Spirit through some things; how I am made, who I am in my family and in my greater community…growth that has resulted in new freedom. Through hiccups to be sure, my family and I have gotten better at loving people and being loved by them. That is freedom. Looking at the title of this essay side by side with the truly wonderful season we are in – it wouldn’t be a reach to say, “What is the conundrum then? Love is abounding! Seems pretty simple to me. Enjoy it!”

In all of these recent experiences one theme has been prevalent in discussion and in the hearts of people who have shared time with me – doctrine is bad and we just need to love one another. But the more I pray about this, the more I see that love sometimes just really isn’t simple. Because love isn’t an accident.

My first thought as I write this for example, is “God is Love.” Where did I get that from? From scripture as many of us know – The Bible. In fact, that statement is part of a larger whole statement that also tells us what love looks like when it plays out on the planet. Scripture says “…and this is how we know what love is, that we lay down our lives for our people.” I won’t spend too much time sidetracking but you have to admit that those two statements are both awesome and life-changing if we comprehend them. And if God is love and love is laying down our lives – then it makes sense that Jesus would be our Messiah. So you see, The Bible points to Jesus always…but the point is, that is a doctrinal argument. It is not a simple feeling.

One of the many theological issues I have had a chance to discuss with peers recently is the afterlife. I couldn’t help but notice here is an area where there are an array of beliefs within any given church community – and where I see many churches who teach a doctrine on the subject – flat out misinterpreting scripture and context of The Word. Yet it is in scripture that while addressing the Pharisees and their faulty views on judgment Jesus said, “Is this not why you are wrong? Because you know neither the scriptures or the power of God?” The fact is that Jesus argued doctrine more than once. Paul made a career of doing it and Peter wasn’t a slouch. James loved arguing doctrine it seems. By all accounts – all the people we revere in our faith – doctrine was both important and a way of knowing God and repenting.

Last Sunday our pastor tore it up. He spoke to what we believe as Christians. That Christ is the Son of God. Lived perfectly. Died sinless. Rose again. Gave His Spirit into His believers and bought our salvation. I have never heard so many amens in my church. Ever. It was AWESOME.

But. Those are doctrinal statements of faith. They aren’t simply our pastor loving us. They were our pastor, in The Spirit, loving us with GRACIOUSNESS & TRUTH. In the same way that, in scripture, we are told to worship in Spirit and in Truth. You see, I can worship in Spirit and freely feel however I want…but when I worship in TRUTH, when I pray in TRUTH, when I let go of the supposition that love must be free for ME to define and I allow Jesus to tell me WHO HE IS…I am torn asunder. Broken down. Revealed for what I am…dependent upon God to define me. No longer able to legalize love and call it freedom of expression. I am dust with His life the only life in me. Simply the clay. I do not get to define what love is – make it simple or complex – for LOVE IS HIM. Love is a lion. Love is a Sword. Love is a shield. Love is a baby crying in a manger. Love is a covenant God made with himself. Love is a man-God-god-Man we can never comprehend. Love is a rebel. Love is a rascal! Love is….

Anything but simple.

I know we like to say it is simple. That we have made things too complex – how could we not look at the American Church or The Christian Machine and not agree with that (unless we are an avid part of it)? It can truly feel simple when love is at its most complete in us – when we abide – it can feel effortless. After all, it is freely offered to us, His precious grace is, and it is equally available to all of us in equal measure.

But what if the feeling of simplicity is also grace? That we can rest in Jesus and feel rest is awesome…but is feeling love and rest synonymous with being simple?

Is it possible we have become so weary of bad doctrine that we reject doctrine as a notion in its entirety? That we have swung so far away from the good doctrine when we reject doctrine entirely. We lose sight of the fact that JESUS IS THE DOCTRINE.

And He is anything but simple.

Look, we must always reject the idea that Our Lord can be put in a box. That The Law brings life to us – but we must also never forget that the Cross is not simple. He just makes it simple for us to be accepted. He makes it simple for us to relate to Him…all that is true. But the places He may ask us to go are not simple. The person He made YOU to be – is NOT simple. And ultimately we need doctrine as much as we need love because it is the same thing. We do not advance in our love so far that we stop needing scripture or else we believe it is NOT the revelation of Jesus and that the Word is alive. We do not advance in our spirituality to a point where we can afford to forget doctrine leads others to Christ as well – so we should know what we believe and why. There may be but one thing we should stand firm on. Christ and Christ crucified. But that is doctrine.

So let us reject the doctrine of man – always. Even if it seems freeing to make our own rules. Let our spirits lead some of us on crusades to limit the damage false doctrine can do. Let’s throw out the bells and whistles! But let us also follow the doctrine of Our Lord Jesus Christ when He said |Today the scriptures are fulfilled in me.”