Just two commands - that's all we really need
When I was going to Bible College in the early 80's no one really wanted to enter into a "debate" with me about my beliefs. I was a stalwart when it came to some of my "views" on what Christ allowed, didn't allow, loved, hated, etc. I actually did pretty good in apologetics - that class where we have to be able to "argue" our point based on scripture. What I probably did a little poorly in was the "non-classroom" work of actually being loving in my responses to others as I shared this truth. I guess the hardest lesson for me to learn came long after I actually finished school - when I actually saw life through the eyes of the one I serve. You see, I "judged" when all I did was preach my point - I didn't begin to actually live out Christ's teaching until I put down my preaching! As I have grown up in Christ, one of the things I have appreciated about his truth is that it doesn't change - it remains the same. MY understanding of truth may have changed - but his truth stays the same! The same is true in all of our lives if we are vibrant and growing in our relationship with Christ - we will recognize not a change in "theology", but a change in our "stance" as it comes to using that "theology" to argue about truth.
Don’t keep changing what you were taught about Christ, or else God will no longer be with you. But if you hold firmly to what you were taught, both the Father and the Son will be with you. (2 John 1:9 CEV)
It isn't that we change the basis of the truth we stand upon - but sometimes we receive deeper revelation into the truth and we see it through eyes which have been touched by God's grace more times than we'd often like to admit. One thing is for sure - the more of God's grace I have had to ask for, the less I tend to judge another for the exact same struggle! So, the truth has not been compromised - my vantage point has changed! I see things through the eyes of grace, not the eyes of "being right"!
Here are some general rules to live by as it applies to our beliefs:
1. The primary command we are given is to have no other god. This means we keep Christ foremost in all we say and do. If we want to be on track with God, we keep other things in "check" in our lives which could interfere with this relationship we need to develop with him. In other words, we manage the distractions caused by material things, relationships, and career. We stop focusing on the "stuff" and focus on him instead - the stuff is supplemental to what we receive from cultivating this relationship with him.
2. The secondary command we must adhere to is that of loving each other. As a matter of fact, we were told to love each other in ways we might see as a little crazy. For example, we are love our enemies and pray for those who mistreat us. (Matthew 5:44) Well, if you have ever tried that one, you might just be looking back at me right now with eyes of unbelief! It is hard! You have been wronged and Christ tells you to actually pray for the one who wronged you - showing them kindness and love. I guess I don't really "get" that one until I look at the example Christ gave us by going to the cross. He was definitely "hated" all the way to the cross - spat upon, beaten, crowned with thorns, stripped of his clothing, and shamed in public. Then without a single consideration for his own welfare, he forgave those who did this to him. Okay, I get it! It is hard, but it draws us closer to Christ because there isn't this "grudge thing" which comes when we hold onto anger against those who "use" or "hurt" us hanging between Christ and us.
3. All the other commands are summed up in these two because they overshadow all we do and say. Herein comes the balance we need when it comes to "doctrine" and "beliefs". We "hang our hats" on our beliefs, so we better be allowing Christ to show us how those "beliefs" actually align with the two commands we just considered above. If our beliefs allow absolutely no room for failure or sin, then they don't allow for grace. If our beliefs allow no chance for a "redo" in life, then they don't allow for mercy and forgiveness. All I can say is that our beliefs fall short if this is how we expect things to be - and we haven't held those beliefs up to our own life! If we did, we'd find we don't live according to those beliefs very well apart from God's grace, mercy, and forgiveness - for we cannot simply "live by the rules" and see real change in our lives. We need God's love healing us and setting us on the right path.
Yep, we hold to truth, but we don't let truth exclude God's grace, mercy, or forgiveness. We hold to doctrine, but we don't use it as a tool to point out fault. We adhere to sound beliefs, but we need to expect God to allow us to see those beliefs through "fresh eyes" as each moment of extended grace, merciful pardon, and extension of forgiveness is sent our way. When we ask God to help us see as he sees, he takes it down to the two commands - keep him central, and let him guide your relationships. Just sayin!