I had been so blind for so long. For many years I had just taken for granted what someone told me was truth, especially if that someone was in a position of authority over me. I heard the rhetoric, took it in, and towed the line on so many issues thinking that they must know and I should just follow. I am learning that a great many things I had believed were truth are nothing more than preferences, and what churches consider doctrines of the faith are nothing more than constructs that do little more than create divisions between the haves and the have nots. Issues such as water baptism, laying on of hands, speaking in tongues, dancing or singing in the Spirit, worship, the hierarchy of church leadership, and many others, really have nothing to do with the salvation of our souls. While they may have a place in the life of the believer, the requirements for salvation are simply the admission that you are a sinner and the acceptance of Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
The thief on the cross did not get baptized, either in water or the Holy Spirit and he didn’t go through a series of classes to be included among the chosen few who were members of the congregation. He didn’t even say, “I’m a sinner, please save me”. All he said was, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom,” and Jesus’ response was, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Nothing more than that. Jesus wasn’t looking at the criminal hanging on the cross, ragged and bloodied and filthy; he was looking the seed of faith in the heart of a lost soul. All too often churches, and Christians in general, focus more on the outward appearance and position of people in their midst rather than at the heart of a sinner in need of mercy and grace. We are all sinners and we all need Jesus. It’s that simple.
I have come to understand some difficult things. I’ve learned that the Lord’s whisper can be heard above the shouts of men, but we must learn to listen. I’ve learned that He is more often seen in the nooks and crannies of real life and not in the orchestrated production of the modern-day church. I’ve realized that though justice may be desired, mercy is demanded and is the only path to forgiveness. He never pushes, but always pulls. His is the hand reaching behind to grasp the soul in the depths of surrender…and he doesn’t let go.