What if you hadn't asked that?

The writer is director of the Church of God UK, associated with the Churches of God Outreach Ministries (CGOM). Write the COGUK at P.O. Box 2525, Lincoln LN5 7PF, England, or

By James McBride

LINCOLN, England--The Scriptures are clear about what is important for a sound relationship with our Creator. It is only by God's mercy and favor, for example, that sinful man may be reconciled with Him. That reconciliation is through the life, suffering and death of our Savior, Jesus of Nazareth.

It is also clear that, although God accepts us initially as we are, yet to preserve our relationship with Him--that is, to be "saved"--we must change and begin to follow God's ways.

In the Scriptures that is called repentance. Then there is baptism, followed by the laying on of hands to receive the divine Spirit, followed by producing spiritual fruit. This is all crystal-clear in God's Word.

Scavenging hyenas

Included in the change that God wants to see in us is His worship structure, His prescribed days for weekly Sabbath and annual worship. They remain unchanged since man's beginnings. We have to be spiritually blind, or blinded, if we can't see this pattern in the Scriptures.

Included in the change, too, is what we might call our ethics, how we live: summed up for us in the last six of the Ten Commandments and in their various applications from the heart. All are obvious and beyond doubt.

But there is much else for Christians to squabble over like a pack of scavenging hyenas. Are they vital for salvation?

What if?

  • What if I believe it's okay for a Christian woman to moderately use makeup but that my church leader banned it? Will I lose out?
  • What if I believe Christians won't be preserved in a special "place of safety" during the coming time of tribulation? Will I face Gehenna? Will God abandon me to the enemy?
  • What if I see it as my responsibility to try to influence my city or country through voting, etc.? Hell, for me?
  • What if I differ from the mainstream on the dates on which to observe God's festivals or how to observe them? Will I lose out on salvation?
  • What if I lose track--perhaps through solitary confinement--of God's Sabbath? Will I be eternally damned?
  • What if my concept of the preexistence of Jesus or "D&R" or tithing isn't old-WCG orthodox? Am I lost?
  • What if my idea of church governance doesn't include hierarchical control? Will Jesus zap me if I'm wrong?

True belief

All these issues have been fought over, each contrary view supposedly supported from Scripture.

Yes, some brethren fight over such teachings, elevating them to salvation issues. The inevitable consequence is, of course, division, for which the perpetrator is responsible.

This does not mean that open discussion of any of these ideas is wrong. Scripture abounds in gray areas that invite investigation.

But what if I bite and devour my fellow Christians? Or what if I treat them shamefully, ignoring their material and spiritual needs? Or what if I dismiss them from my life and my church fellowship because of such contrary views as described above? Now, that's dangerous ground!

Remember Jesus' words: "By this shall all men know you are my disciples, if you love one another."

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