As the temperatures soar this week, we continue through the long Ordinary Time of summer and fall. The Collect from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer for today reads:
Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by thy governance, that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Today's Epistle reading is from the third chapter of the First Letter of Saint Peter, starting in the eighth verse:
Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful [full of pity], be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it....
I was thinking about this very issue this morning before I read the today's Epistle. I find it so very difficult to understand why some Christians feel the need to tear down other Christians. I hear anti-Catholic sentiments and I just don't get it. I've heard the word "evil" thrown around in describing Catholic doctrine. But, for goodness' sake, we are on the SAME side; we have a common enemy: Satan. So whether we believe in asking the Saints for prayer or in the Rapture, in infant baptism or in symbolic Communion, we need to bind our hearts together and unite against Satan and his demons who delight in our divisions, who rejoice in our rejection of each others' spirituality. We are all Christians, and the Scripture quoted above doesn't merely ask us but instead COMMANDS us to "be of one mind," to have compassion on each other and to love one another, to be kind and courteous to one another, to bless each other. Drawing lines in the sand regarding beliefs about Mary, or the saints, or end times, or sacraments (or the lack of them) promotes disunity, division, and "railing for railing," to quote again from St. Peter's Epistle.
As long as we love Jesus, acknowledge that He is indeed the Son of God who died and rose again the third day to free us from the bonds of sin, then we should "major on the majors," as the old saying goes. Abraham Lincoln's remark, "A house divided against itself cannot stand" is as true for the Church as it was for our country. Civil Wars between Catholic and Protestant have only brought havoc and suffering throughout history, and as recently as IRA bombings within the last twenty years. We both, Catholic and Protestant, need to come together, and beyond that, need to WORK together in order to be truly effective against our common enemy, who is prowling, roaring, and waiting to devour us.
And especially in this day and age, when Christianity is belittled and abandoned right and left in nearly every public arena, we Christians need to "be of one mind" more than ever. We evangelicals need to realize that our closest ally in the pro-life cause is indeed the Roman Catholic Church; we can and need to work together in crisis pregnancy centers, in pro-life walks, in pushing forward legislation that protects the unborn. And Catholics need to realize that not every evangelical is going to accuse them of "not being a Christian" and that we're "safe" to be around, even if we're not in full communion with the Roman Church. Both sides need to put aside what we "believe" about each other and realize that we're much closer in life and doctrine than we think. I've discovered in conversing with Catholic homeschoolers that so often we possess the same beliefs, but those beliefs are couched in different terms which cause misunderstandings. And underneath all the rhetoric, we're really stating the same doctrines which we didn't realize we held in common.
Even the "Bible Answer Man" claims that evangelicals and Catholics who ascribe to the Magisterium (offical teachings of the Church) share 80% of the same doctrine. 80%! So it's more than time to put aside what we think we believe about each other and obey today's Epistle reading in "refraining [our] tongue[s] from evil" and "seek peace" with one another, whether Catholic or Protestant. When we set aside minor differences and decide to serve and obey the Lord our God side by side, Satan will be vanquished as the Lord's army goes forth, in His might and power. So, in the words of today's Collect, may "thy Church ... joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness, through Jesus Christ our Lord." And may we do so in unity and godly love for one another and for our Saviour, which is a powerful witness to an unbelieving world.