Matthew 5:16 (NLT)
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
I recently read a post from a friend on Facebook bearing the argument that it is not appropriate for Roman Catholics to fellowship with evangelicals as they differ greatly in faith and doctrine, going as far as saying that Bible studies with Protestants should be avoided. I was astonished about the post because of two things: the proceedings of the Vatican II, which also included the Novus Ordo, intensified interest for ecumenical relationships between churches, and that the current Pope has been nothing less of appreciative of this brotherhood among Christians albeit having clear boundaries about eschatology and hermeneutics.
During the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 Theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg, the Lutheran church, together with some Protestant groups and the Roman Catholic Church, presented points of unity to acknowledge the common justification of all Christians regardless of denomination or background.
Coming from a conservative Christian background, the latter has not been met appreciatively, especially of my brothers and sisters in my local church. Therefore, I do understand the hostility of my friend on Facebook towards evangelicals. Aside from the clear communication gap, for too long evangelical churches have referred to Roman Catholics as unbelievers and mainly consider them as those to whom believers should not be yoked with as mentioned in 2 Corinthians 6:14, which reads, “Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? (NLT).”
I do think, in my heart of hearts and of my understanding of Paul’s reminder to the Corinthians, is not to sin like those who do not believe in Christ. Unfortunately, the mismatch would have been the setting here in the Philippines where Roman Catholics enjoy being the majority and Protestants and evangelicals seem to compete for relevance.
Due to the pandemic, I have settled on attending online church since last year, and for the past two months, I have been yearning for the faith background that I had. I searched for a church that would give me just that and have been attending live services from Calvin Christian Reformed Church in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. I felt at home with the same faith tradition in which I was raised and the right mix of hymns and contemporary music. But I was struck by the sermon last Sunday.
On his continuing series on the Book of Genesis, the pastor touched on the genealogy of Adam and Eve’s children, namely, Cain and Seth. While Seth’s bloodline is hailed to have borne Enoch, who walked with God without dying, Methuselah, the oldest person recorded in the Bible, and Noah, who is well-known for his deeds, Cain’s family has been shown to have a slight resemblance to his arrogance and committing murder.
Yet the pastor pointed out verses 20 to 22 of chapter 4 of Genesis, which reads, “Adah gave birth to Jabal, who was the first of those who raise livestock and live in tents. His brother’s name was Jubal, the first of all who play the harp and flute. Lamech’s other wife, Zillah, gave birth to a son named Tubal-Cain. He became an expert in forging tools of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain had a sister named Naamah.”
It shows that God has gifted even the bloodline of the first murderer, and even though readers of this account may be biased towards their family, the gifts bestowed on Cain’s descendants proved that God creates all human beings in His own image. The pastor went on to insist that the arts and culture of other people must be appreciated as they were also concocted by people whom God Himself created.
I have two points here: First, instead of being dismissive and critical of people of other faiths and no faith, it would not hurt to appreciate them first as created beings of the God we believe in. Second, that we are still called to share the Gospel in the midst of appreciating these people in the midst of the differences as long as the immoral and the sinful things are not tolerated or emulated.
During this pandemic, many people have manifested some things that were not expected both from believers or not, showing that despite humans being made in God’s image, we are still fragile and prone to sin. Yet, the diversity of God’s creation gives hope for better days to come as science and the wisdom He bestowed on His people help in alleviating the problem and the suffering of humankind.