Sometimes you will hear someone say people are too concerned with what others believe about God, when all that really matters is that a person does good for other people.
I am not sure they really believe this of course, because saying this in and of itself, is a kind of belief, isn’t it? (And if it is a kind of belief, and they are telling me that I should think this as well, then they seem pretty concerned about what others believe about God!)
But really the only way we can say something like this with a straight face is if we believe that a person’s relationship with God is basically insignificant.
Focus in on that word relationship.
Believing matters (in other words, what you think about someone matters) when there is a relationship involved.
When you are deeply concerned about someone’s theological beliefs, you are concerned about how they think about God at the core of their being, their deepest convictions. And I know for me, there have been times where someone has questioned why I was making such a big deal out these kinds of things when there are hurting people in the world.
They make it sound like you are an EMT at a car crash getting upset about the way the person lying on the ground’s use of grammar.
But, God is not grammar.
He’s a person.
And we have a relationship with him and it’s because we have a relationship with Him that what we believe about him matters.
My math book doesn’t care what I believe about it. Neither does George Washington really. If I am going around freaking out because you think George really did cut down the cherry tree, I can see how you might think me strange.
But God’s not simply a subject or a historical figure.
He’s a person.
And what you think about people matters, especially when you have a relationship with them.
Take me and my wife.
What I believe or think about my wife impacts the kind of relationship we have with one another.
Would you take someone seriously who said, it doesn’t matter what you think about your wife? That kind of statement would be nonsense, because we know the way we think about our wife has an impact on our relationship with her, and anything that impacts that relationship matters to us, because she matters to us.
Saying what we think about our wife doesn’t matter, wouldn’t only make sense, if we thought our relationship with our wife doesn’t matter.
Now of course there are lots of people who do believe that about their relationship with God.
They don’t think a relationship with God matters.
Either they don’t believe in God or they think that He doesn’t care about us, and so, it makes sense I suppose for them to say that we shouldn’t be concerned about what others believe about Him.
Though I don’t really see how it makes that much sense for them to go on to say that it is doing good for others really matters. When they say it doesn’t matter what a person believes, so long as you are doing good for others, it would make more sense to me, if they just stopped with, it doesn’t matter.
I mean, imagine going to the zoo, and getting upset about the way the lions treated one another. They are animals. I suppose a person who takes care of the zoo won’t want lions to eat the other lions, but I mean, really, who cares if they growl at one another, or fight, and really at the end of the day, the only reason it matters if they eat one another is because we aren’t going to have much of a zoo for very long if all the animals did that.
The reason it matters so much how we as humans treat one another is because there is a distinction between us and the animals around us. If there is no distinction, how can we ever say, being useful or doing good to others really matters?
It would have to be instead, it matters, wink, wink.
I mean, how does it matter? Why does it matter?
So I am not treating you as if you were less than human, when I am deeply concerned about what you believe. I am not condescending to you. It’s not because I don’t take you seriously.
The opposite actually.
If I thought you were simply an animal, then I wouldn’t give a moment’s thought to what you believe. I don’t go to the zoo and debate with Tigers about Calvinism.
It is because I see you as truly human and because I am convinced there is something significant about you being a human which centers on the unique relationship you can have with the Creator of the Universe, God, that I care so deeply about what you believe.
You have a purpose bigger than doing good to others, and actually doing good to others as a purpose, only makes sense when you keep our primary purpose, primary.
I mean, imagine, the two of us, say looking at a brick and you saying, we need to use this brick to make a building and me saying, why do you talk about bricks and buildings, the reason we should go to all the effort to put this brick in line with other bricks, is because what really matters for the brick is that it is useful to other bricks.
If all there were to bricks were other bricks, if there were no higher end, then bricks are altogether useless. Putting one brick on top of another, and the way you do that, that discussion, only matters if the bricks serve a higher end, if there is a purpose for the brick, to build a house or make a wall and the same is true with us as people.
The reason serving one another matters is because there is a higher end to our service than serving one another. And that higher end is the glory of God. This is what humans are made for, which is why of course what you believe about God matters.
In fact, we might say, it’s because we are so concerned about doing good for others, that we are so deeply concerned about what a person thinks in his heart about God.
The two are connected.