The author Mick Mooney recently wrote a post entitled ‘Jesus Didn’t Care About Correct Doctrine, and Neither Should We’. And in that post He did well to show that Jesus loved and sought a relationship with all, regardless of how ‘correct’ their doctrinal beliefs were. In fact, in the spirit of ‘correctness’, I think that it would have been more accurate to call the post ‘Jesus Didn’t Choose Who He Loved by the ‘Correctness’ of Their Doctrine, and Neither Should We’, as this is really the message that the post is delivering. As it stands, I can see how the current title would lead some to think that Mick is stating that the aspect of having sound or ‘correct’ doctrine is not important. And judging by the comments, it seems clear that those who disagree with the article, are disagreeing over what the name of the article is saying, rather than what the article itself is saying. So I can only assume that it’s either the case that because of the title, some understandably didn’t bother to actually read the article before commenting, or that the current wording of the title made it difficult for them to look past the letter of it, to see the spirit behind it (2 Corinthians 3:5-6). Truth be told, this is actually one of the reasons why doctrinal ‘correctness’ is indeed important, for it’s still often the difference between whether or not ones good is spoken evil of (though it really shouldn’t be).
The scriptures reveal that Jesus did very much care about the correctness of the doctrine of those He came in contact with. With the admonition to beware of the doctrine of the pharisees (Matthew 16:5-12), as well as sayings such as “the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32), He showed that soundness of doctrine was indeed something that was important to Him. His apostles also echoed this sentiment when they admonished us to…
Be diligent to present ourselves approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, . (2 Timothy 2:15)
And also when they said that…
the time would come when men would not endure … but instead would be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
What Jesus didn’t do, however (as Mick stated in his article), is use their beliefs as an indicator of whether or not He would love and fellowship with them. He loved and desired to fellowship with all, regardless of what they believed. The problem, however, was that not all were able to receive Him because of certain errors that were present in their beliefs, and that’s why He cares much about the correctness of what we believe.
You see, not only will what we believe determine how much value we get out of life, it will also determine how much life that we allow Christ to yield to us. A good example of this is seen in the accounting of Jesus preaching in His hometown on the sabbath day (Mark 6:1-6). As the story goes, those hearing Him became offended because they felt that His background and general upbringing, did not match that of one that spoke with the authority that He spoke with, and did the sort of works that He did. As such, they refused to believe in Him, and this resulted in Him not being able to do any mighty works there, except to heal a few sick people. This account is a good example of how an errored belief about who Christ is, can cause us to block Him from yielding the benefit that He wants to yield to our lives. For though Jesus wanted to give them life both with His words and His works, their errored beliefs would not allow them to let Him do so.
All Christ wants is to yield an over and abundant supply of life to each and every individual. He revealed this much to us when He said the following:
I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
However, the extent to which He can do so, is limited by what we actually believe about Him, not because His power depends on our ability to believe, but because He respects what we believe (as we should others). You see, if He were to violate what we believed by forcing His way upon us, it would be like if He spiritually raped us (so to speak). In other words, though new life would result out of it short term, it would be at the expense of our long term spiritual well being. And this would be bad not only for us, but also for those around us. As an example, let’s say I believed that sickness was a sign that one was out of Gods will. If Christ was to then heal me of my sickness even with this belief, my errored belief would then be confirmed, and I would go around judging every sick person who was praying for healing and not receiving it, as being out of Gods will. And in this way, through healing me, not only would Christ have hindered my long term spiritual development, but He would have also contributed to the overall worsening of mankind, for the effects would be far reaching. If, however, He did not heal me despite all my efforts to be in His will, then I would eventually be forced to address my errored belief, seeing that it’s not working for me.
Thus, in order to ensure that He does not hinder our long term spiritual development in the process of giving us short term help, He has no choice but to limit the extent to which He can help us, by the correctness of what we believe about Him. This is why He often asked those who sought Him for healing, whether they believed that He was actually able to do so, before He went ahead and healed them (see Matthew 9:28 and Mark 9:17-24). I mean, think about it. One would think that those that were seeking healing from Jesus already believed that He could heal them. After all, why else would they ask Him to do so if they didn’t believe? Yet Jesus would still ask if they believed. Why? It’s because He was not really targeting the aspect of them ‘believing’ when He asked the question. Rather, what He was targeting was the correctness of the ‘belief’ or truth that was resulting in them believing (this being what the scriptures is telling us in shorthand form). For if there was an error in it, Him healing them would be a violation against life. In this way, it can be seen that Christ limiting the extent to which He can help us by the correctness of what we believe about Him, is something that He does out of His love and long term plan to secure eternal life for all of mankind (John 17:3).
Now this is not the only way that He is limited by the correctness of what we believe. As shown with the example of Jesus not being received in His hometown, the errors that are present in our beliefs also cause us to overtly block Him from positively effecting our lives with His love. Take atheists as an example. Because they don’t believe in the existence of God, they end up overtly blocking any attempts for Him to enrich not only their lives, but the lives of many with life altering truths. Truths that give hope and a future that extend past our natural existence, and truths that reveal just how valuable and loved we all are. But it doesn’t stop with atheists. Even us as christians to one degree or another, are blocking the life enhancing effects of God in this world, because of errors that are present within our beliefs about Him. After all, it’s errored beliefs that resulted in all the so called ‘holy wars’ and even acts of terrorism that were, and are still committed in God’s name, right? For christians even today, are still terrorising and waging wars with both ourselves, and other groups of people that see things differently, even when they are not picking a fight with us. Worse yet, we are doing this thinking that we are representing God, when we are in fact, misrepresenting Him. And here lies the other reason why doctrinal correctness is important: It determines how much of Gods nature and love that we will actually reflect to others. This is why we are told to…
work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12)
It’s Love that is the salvation of mankind. Hence, what we are to work out is how to love, by working out who God really is, both in Spirit (the Father) and in image (the Son). For because God is Love itself (1 John 4:8), to understand love, we just simply have to understand God. So what we should fear and tremble about is not God punishing us or anything like that, but rather, us getting this understanding wrong. Why? Because to the degree that we get it wrong, is the degree that we will misrepresent the nature and intent of God and of love in this world. In other words, it will be the factor that determines just how much we actually hindered or contributed to the salvation of mankind.
Yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you . (John 16:2-3)
So yes. Doctrinal correction is indeed very important. Christ showed us this much. It is important, however, not for the sake of simply being important, but because it greatly aids in facilitating love and peace in this world. As such, if our emphasis on it’s importance is preventing love from being manifested, then it means that it is now becoming more important than God intended it to be. For the most important thing is love, and everything else exists to help facilitate love (Matthew 22:36-40, Galatians 5:14). Without love, we would have nothing.
For though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
So let’s remember that loving people always comes first. And while we are at it, let’s not forget the importance and power of sound doctrine to help us both to love, and be loved. Finally, let’s remember that if we truly love others, like Jesus, we would respect their beliefs rather than trying to force ours on them. No real transformation occurs by forcing ones way upon another. All that results from doing so is anger, contention and strife. The only thing that truly transforms one from within is an act of Love. Remember that we love God not because He forced us to do so, but because He loved us first (1 John 4:19). So while doctrinal correction is indeed very important, let’s remember to love first and be correct second.