Monday, February 10, 2014

Bible Study: Ecumenism, or other reasons to not press the issue

Romans 14:15
Colossians 3:12-17
We don't live in a culture where meat is routinely sacrificed to idols before being presented on our plates. Nor are we bound by religious laws restricting what we eat every day. But there are other issues that are harder to discern. Is it wrong to practice yoga? Should Christians participate in Halloween celebrations? Am I obligated to hand out money to panhandlers on street corners? How much and what type of alcohol is it acceptable to drink? We may think something is ok, but if a friend objects then it might be the way of love to abstain from that activity, at least when we are together. Certainly we should not pressure someone into engaging in that activity when they feel convinced that it is wrong.
Some would think that I am not a very good Catholic. I belong to an ecumenical Christian group and often avoid explicitly Catholic devotions when around my non-Catholic friends. Not that I don't pray the Rosary, keep a crucifix, use Holy Water, ask saints for their intercession...but that is not by any means the whole of my faith. Since non-Catholic Christians view these things very differently, would insisting on their use increase my faith or theirs, which should be founded first and foremost on love? Especially when we still have so much else in agreement including charismatic prayer, certain rote prayers, Bible reading, Bible study, love of God, love of neighbor, devotion to the Lord Jesus, etc. When we are together there is more than enough to keep us busy with what we share in common, and we have plenty of time during the rest of the day to include what we disagree about. Just as I suspect that the early Christians who believed it was perfectly acceptable to eat the meat sacrificed to idols, or the bacon forbidden by the Law of Moses, had enough opportunities to eat them without insisting on bringing them to the meetings with other Christians who felt those things were unacceptable. The sacrifice they had to make, and the sacrifice we may have to make, is relatively minor. Complain because we can only engage in 90% of our faith life when we're around certain friends, and only have 90% of the rest of our day to complete those 10% of our devotions if we choose to do so?
Of course there is a time and place to question whether our friends might be right in believing that those particular activities are wrong, or that we might need to confront them about considering changing their behavior and "converting" to our way of thinking. But is this the time and place? Or by insisting on those things we disagree about, are we in fact pushing aside love in favor of pride, caring less about the individual than about proving that we are in the right over whatever the disagreement might be?

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