If you would like to read my views on religion and how we got started with the ministry, you can read this.
[This article is an edited transcription of the March 2006 Tape / CD of the Month, The Balance of Truth and Love: Valuing Right Doctrine and Right Relationships by John Schoenheit.]
God bless you and welcome to this Spirit & Truth Fellowship International monthly tape / CD. This month I will be talking about having right relationships. That is having relationships that are a blessing, having relationships with people in which friendliness and friendship is there and genuine love for each other occurs.
You would think that in Christianity this would be the world’s easiest thing. Something funny happens in Christianity. How do I know this? Well, I know this because it happens in me. I am talking on this monthly tape / CD about something in which I have wrestled with in the past and to some degree still do wrestle with it. Thankfully because I am aware of it, I am working hard on myself. I still see in myself, and in others, that what I consider to be truth (right doctrine) is very important to me. It is very important to me to be right in the way that I believe about God. If you know me, then you know that I have studied very hard in the Word of God to understand it. Once I think that I understand it then I am very confident of what I understand, and that is as it should be. I am confident of what I believe. I believe very differently from many ministers. For example, when I turn on the Christian T.V. and I hear ministers who are very different than I am, they are very confident too. Well, praise the Lord! I think that is as it should be. I think if we read the Word of God and come from the assumption that God wrote the Word so we could understand it and know it and Him, then we should be confident in what we believe. That is important. It is important that you understand as I go through this teaching that I am not talking about losing confidence in what we believe. What I am talking about is something I have seen in myself and in Christianity today. That is sometimes the “truth” that I know, that I think I am sure of in God’s Word, creates in me an intolerance for other Christians and other people in general.
Now, is that not a paradox? What I have discovered here is sometimes the truth that I know, rather than being an engine that drives love in me and produces loving relationships actually drives me from relationships. In other words, because of the truth that I know, I look at other people that do not believe like I believe and I do not bring those people into my heart by truly loving them. For some reason I wrestled with this in my past and to some extent today. Is that not strange? I will say it again, sometimes the “truth” I know rather than being the engine that produces loving relationships drives me from loving relationships.
I think all of us know that we are supposed to be loving. We know we are supposed to be kind to people. Why is it when we settle upon something that we believe and say, “This is what I believe; this is the truth,” that it is so hard for us to be truly kind and compassionate and loving to others and have friends that do not believe like us? I think it has to do with how we hold our doctrine in our heart. We actually elevate our doctrine over love. We elevate our doctrine over our relationship with people. Well, guess who does not do that? How about God?
As I have been reflecting on this lately, I thought about how nobody has more truth than God. God is the truth. When He had Scripture written, every syllable was true; and yet, I know that God has worked with me when I did not believe the truth on a lot of things. I see when I talk to other ministers and other denominations, that the Lord is working through them and people are getting saved and blessed under their ministries. What is very apparent to me, and I hope to you, is that God is working in them just as He is working in me! What does that tell me? It tells me that God values the relationship more than the truth that they hold. Last week I was studying the Bible, and I saw something that changed a point of Scripture that I had believed for 35 years. This happened last week. We are changing all the time. We are getting better all the time! All of us think that we are learning more all the time; at least I hope that we are.
If what we know is holding us back from being in genuine-fulfilling friendship / relationship with people, then something is wrong with the way we are relating to our doctrine. We are putting our doctrine above the love of people. A way has to be there to do both.
Matthew 9:9 and 10
(9) As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
(10) While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples.
That is an amazing truth. Tax collectors and sinners came to eat with Jesus. Notice it does not say Jesus sent out the twelve to round up tax collectors and sinners. That is not what happened. All Jesus did was go to dinner. He went and called Matthew and had a dinner, and the tax collectors and sinners came. That tells me they were very comfortable with Jesus. They were comfortable being around him. Now, did he teach them things that were true? Certainly, Jesus did. Absolutely he did; then, why is it when I try to teach people things that are true, sometimes people run from me. What is the difference here? I think the difference has to be in what you believe in your heart about people.
For years, I kind of held the position that something was wrong with people if they did not believe the truth, or somehow they were less intelligent, or somehow they were less valuable. I am not even sure what I believed, but I know I thought they were not as good as I was. I thought they were not as valuable as I was. I was proud, and I elevated myself because I believed what was right, but I see that all over Christianity. So many Christians are out there that separate themselves from other Christians because what they believe is right. I do not see that in the life of Jesus Christ, and it breaks me.
We talk about being broken on the “Rock of Jesus Christ.” Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a point of breaking. If I do not have sinners who want to be around me, then I am not being like Christ, because Jesus Christ had sinners who wanted to be around him. This happened throughout his whole ministry.
Matthew 11:16 and 17
(16) “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:
(17) “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’
What is he talking about here? He is talking about people who are judging other people. People who are evaluating other people based upon what they believed and based upon their behavior. He said, “Do you know what the people of this generation are like. They are like children.” They said, “I played the flute, and you would not dance. We sang a dirge, and you would not mourn.” Let us translate that. “I taught the dead were dead, and you did not believe. I believe this, and you do not.”
We become dissatisfied with people that are not on the same page with us doctrinally. Maybe I should say, “I have been dissatisfied with people or have kept people at arms length that are not on the same page with me doctrinally.” That should not be happening.
Matthew 11:18 and 19
(18) John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’
(19) The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”’ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.”
What a great verse. What is the wisdom of God? How about love your neighbor as yourself. How about to love like Christ loved? We should love as Christ loved and not criticize each other for each other’s doctrine.
Now, does that mean I do not think doctrine is important? No, I do think that doctrine is important. In fact, I see the importance of fellowshipping with like-minded believers because when I study like-mindedness in the Word of God, I see that when like-minded believers are together that great power and great effort is there.
I understand the practical reality that you need to minister with people that believe like you do. Early on in my ministry an interesting circumstance occurred. Because of a mutual friend who was in the hospital, another pastor and I ended up in his hospital bedroom at the same time. We were both there to minister to him. This man was very sick and possibly going to die. The limits of the practicality of the other minister and I ministering together very quickly became apparent because I believed Satan caused the man’s sickness and we could pray and get the man delivered. God wanted the man delivered. Furthermore, I believed if the man did slip into death that he fell asleep and awaited the return. The other minister who walked into the room at the same time I did believed that God sent the sickness for a reason and he was there to help the man ferret out the reason that God would make him sick and if the man did die, he would go home to be with the Lord, which was okay too. It became apparent in a few minutes that the two of us could not minister together.
As I teach this teaching, I do not want you to hear me saying, “Well, John Schoenheit is saying we should disband our fellowship.” That is not what I am saying. I recognize that it is important to minister with like-minded believers and I believe we have a lot of truth. Is that being honest? Absolutely it is. Why do I believe that? I believe that because I have studied the Word for years, and I understand the medium of language in which the Bible is written. I also know that if you have turned on the T.V. and listened to ministers that believe very opposite things than I do, that they believe they have the truth, and they should. Why should they? They should because if you do not have faith in what you believe then how in the world are you going to expect God to bless your ministry?
Praise God for men and women of God who stand up and have faith in what they believe! Yet, at the same time, we have to hold it lightly. Like I said, just last week, I unlearned something I thought I knew for 35 years. Well, praise God for that! An interesting tight rope is there for the minister of God and for the Christian to be taught truth and believe it; and yet, they should not hold that truth above love in relationships.
Let me show you something out of Hebrews. I want to remind you about what we just read about the religious people during the time of Christ. They said, “We piped unto you, and you did not dance. We sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” The people of Christ’s time, like me, like our ministers today, and like so many Christians, criticized others. “We did this, and you did not do that!” We criticize others when they do not conform to what we believe. That has just got to stop. It has to stop in me. It has to stop in others. I have got to be able to see people through Christ’s eyes and realize that the person is more important than the doctrine they hold. That is why Christ gives revelation across the board. He gives revelation to Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, and people with Spirit & Truth. He works with them and he blesses them. He overlooks the doctrinal problems that we all have. I am not going to stand here and say everything I believe is true. If I did not like people who did not believe like me, if I met myself five years ago, I would not like myself. Sure, I have changed, a lot.
We have got to love people from our hearts.
Thanks for reading.
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