There is nothing quite like a smooth, clean and clear path to where you are heading. Who wants to walk a dirty trail scattered with rocks, branches and other debris? While a Boy Scout may enjoy the challenge, I prefer the smoother path. However, it is possible for our desire for a smooth path to keep us from our destination.
Pat and Andy are walking down a path to the same destination. Pat wants a pristine path - clear of all rocks, branches, dirt and all debris. Any wants to reach the destination and can live with is being a bit sloppy. Quite a bit of dirt. Scattered branches and twigs. Some overgrown grass. Despite the mess, Any is making good progress toward the destination. However, Pat is not getting along as well. Pat is consumed with keeping the path as pristine as possible. Every step or so, another branch must be removed. Grass trimmed. Dirt brushed aside. Not only that, Pat often looks up to see Andy walking by a mess on the other side of the path. There comes a point where Andy is further along the path than Pat is. However, Pat calls out to Andy, "You can't just leave that branch there - come back and clean it up!" Then, "Hey, get back here and trim that grass!" After a while of this, neither Pat nor Andy has made real progress down the path, even though it is looking better and better.
Christians are moving in the direction of Jesus. The way to God is through Jesus Christ alone. The only way to be on that path is through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Trust in the One Who is fully God and fully man, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect and sinless life, Who died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins, Who rose again on the third day forever defeating death and ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father. You cannot be on a different path and reach God.
But there are different people on the path - Baptists, Presbyterians, C&MA, Charismatics, etc. I know the language may sound odd, but please bear with the illustration. The path is clearly defined in the essentials listed above. But along that road, we seek to keep things as pristine as possible. By that, I mean keeping the path as clear as possible. Some of the obstacles (like the branches and dirt) may be lack of Bible reading and prayer, lack of church attendance, sloppy theology, choice of Bible translations, etc. These are all important aspects of the Christian life. However, they do not necessarily mean you are off the path. Now, by theology I do not mean the core components of Jesus and His Gospel. I mean the other stuff - your view of election, the time you spend in prayer, how often you go to church, whether you read the King James Bible or the New American Standard, etc. All of these things are important and we should seek to be as well kept in these areas as we can. However, we can easily become Pat. We can allow those things to stop serving us in drawing closer to Jesus and our lives can end up serving those things. Then, we feel the need to get in Andy's way by calling for the same from others.
Why do you study theology? It should be to know God better. But we can also become theology-junkies who study theology just for the sake of studying theology and to become smarter than other Christians. Why are we concerned about what Bible translation we use? It should be to know as clearly as possible what God has communicated to us. But we can find ourselves adoring a translation instead of adoring the God revealed in those pages. Why do we do evangelism? It should be out of love and obedience to God and love and compassion for people. Sometimes, we do it to show off or to condemn or to one-up someone else.
In drawing closer to Jesus, we build things into our lives to help us move forward in Him. We select a Bible translation to nest help us. We develop spiritual disciplines. We serve God in ministry. We study theology. But sometimes, we get down on our hands and knees to polish the road to the point where we cease to move forward. We lose our focus on Jesus.
We also get really upset when we see someone else is happy to be on the path without it being as pristine as we would like it to be. We take someone who is growing closer to Jesus and we derail them because they are using the NIV rather than the KJV. We call them back in their progress because their view of the end times is a little unkept. We seek to convince some that they aren't really on the path because they have not cleared all the dirt we see in their views on Calvinism.
Some Christians need to learn from others that a clean road prevents one from tripping as well as helps others to move down the path more easily. However, other Christians need to learn that keeping a clear path is only good if we are making progress down the path and get closer to our destination.
Perhaps you have noticed a theme in my posts lately. For that I apologize to a degree. My heart has become very heavy lately with some of the internal fighting taking place among believers. Maybe you wonder why I don't just stay offline and tune out the fights. Well, I recently took an axe to my friends list on Facebook. I want the path to be clear and clean and I also want to move down the path in a timely manner. I am separating myself from those who yell at the ones who aren't as neat as well as those who yell at the ones who want to keep things tidy. So, this will be my final post on the issue. It is time to move along down the road. Let's run to Jesus!