By Dean Greer
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Eph 4:2, 3
As the day’s move forward, I have become more grateful for the many differing aspects of the one body of Christ Paul writes of in Ephesians 4.
I grew up in a Pentecostal church and attended Baptist school all the way through high school. These two very distinct communities had many differences to navigate. I remember the scandal when our Baptist principal’s wife began speaking in tongues. There were some who discretely enjoyed dancing and others who fervently prayed for the salvation of those caught dancing. Minor differences today, but as a child there was a strong divide among the Protestants of my community.
The Catholics invoked a much greater divide. A few of my extended family members were Catholic. I was taught (erroneously) of the heresy these ones believed: Jesus was still on the cross, Mary was equal to – if not greater than – Jesus, you can – and should – pray to dead people, their Bible had “added” scriptures, etc. Some went so far as to tag the Catholic Church a cult! There were tracts passed around my school with huge warning signs emblazoned with fire and brimstone. It was scary and confusing.
I remember having a conversation with my parents about it: “What if they are right and we’re wrong? After all, they believe as strongly as we do…” My parents told me, “That is a matter of faith that you need to work out before the Lord.” That was often their answer to my many questions about faith. It continues to be a good answer.
Since then I have been working it out. I can appreciate the wealth of wisdom I glean from other denominations. I can grow from valuable things and can hold lightly what I do not understand. With most denominational differences I find I can agree to disagree. I don’t carry within me the wounds or scars inflicted by spiritual abusers so my defenses are not great. Unfortunately, what I do carry within is my pride. When I do face significant conflict, it often comes down to my need to be right and for them – whomever the “them” might be – to be wrong.
The Lord is always willing to give me opportunities to work it out. In the last few years I was introduced to John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. I attended a week-long immersion course taught by the excellent Christopher West. This seminar was the most significant Catholic experience of my life. I attended daily mass, though I was not allowed to participate in communion because I was not one of them. It required working out my faith before the Lord like never before.
As my boss and mentor I have always been aware of Andrew Comiskey’s penchant for the mystics. You can’t participate in Living Waters and ignore the concepts and great quotes he extracts from Catholic writers. I have gained much from their insight and have come to greatly appreciate them myself. I admit I felt safe knowing I could glean from them without needing to admit their chosen faith was the right one and that mine was wrong.
When Andrew converted to Catholicism, I found myself needing to work out ‘the Catholic thing’ a bit more before the Lord. With the announcement of his conversion, many of my Living Waters colleagues needed answers. Each inquiry tempted my own Catholic prejudice. I expected the worst when I was told he was revising the guidebook to make it more Catholic-friendly.
When I received it, I read through the chapters that I anticipated being too Catholic. I positioned myself defensively, ready to defend my Protestant beliefs. However, I was delighted with the finished product. Yes, it does contain more quotes from Catholic writers. Andrew acknowledges the relevant traditions of the Catholic Church that differ from Protestant traditions, but he does so inclusively, beautifully. While it may infringe on my comfort zone, there is nothing that contradicts my theology.
I see the revision as a work that expresses more completely God’s heart for reconciliation within His one body. God’s heart for reconciliation is what Living Waters is all about. I’m gaining a greater appreciation for my Catholic brothers and sisters. We can and should stand together rather than on different sides of the cross.
“From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” Eph. 4:16