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Faith Imagined: A Church Divided

Faith Imagined

Alisa Hope Wagner: Christian Writer

May 31, 2011

A Church Divided

I'm reading Warriors Don't Cry, a beautiful memoir written by Melba Pattillo Beals, one of the nine black students integrated into Little Rock's Central High in 1957. As I read about her childhood, I walked through memories that were vastly different from mine. She grew up in a "sepia-toned world, a cocoon of familiar people and places." The few times she interacted with white people tended to be racially charged and negative. As a child, she felt like a second-class citizen, but she and her family firmly believed that God would bring forth His justice and liberty.

I, on the other hand, grew up on a military base in the 1980s. I was surrounded by people of all colors and blends of colors. I had best friends who were white, black, Hispanic, Chinese and Filipino. I didn't believe we were all the same. I could see the differences in each race first hand, but I enjoyed and soaked up those differences. I never had to fight for my rights against an entire nation because I enjoyed the freedoms fought by those before me. Though our nation is far from perfect, we have experienced great victories won by people faithful to God's will.

I write all this because I'm learning that each of us has a unique lens on life. We can never assume that we know what someone is thinking or feeling, especially if we have limited our focus to ourselves. Though Ms. Beals and I have unique upbringings and life-experiences, we both love and serve the same God. Our situation shapes our perspective on life, people and spirituality, yet God is able to form His love, mercy and grace to fit our personal need and understanding.

I read a lot of books written by diverse spiritual leaders. Each leader has his/her unique Holy Spirit inspired passion and perspective. After reading a handful of books, I started to become nervous and confused. Every leader was so different and had diverse takes on the world, God and spirituality. I felt like there were huge gaps between each leader's spiritual ideology, and it was difficult for me to jump from one school of thought to another. But I knew every single one of them was aligned with God's Word and His Spirit. They each deepened my relationship with and understanding of God with strict Bible teachings.

Instead of pointing my "false prophet" finger, I kept reading more books. The Holy Spirit began bringing a colorful array of spiritual mentors into my path, and I consumed their insights. As I continued reading, other spiritual ideologies arose, and those big gaps between schools of thought became smaller and smaller. Soon these amazing, God-breathed insights formed stepping stones that merged together to create a solid path to God. I discovered that these spiritual platforms tied together at the root of God made up His beloved bride: the Church! And God wants us to live in harmony so He can raise up His Bride that we may glorify Him.

"May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 15.5-6 ESV).

Additional readings:

I write about counterfeit Christianity in my article, "Empty Spirituality."

I write about the church sanctfication in my article, "Peaceful Swords."

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Blogger Shanda said...

This is so true. I believe that, no matter how knowledgeable and theological trained we are, we will all arrive at heaven to discover there were things we were wrong about. That is why it is important to study for ourselves and follow as God leads. And not judge others!

9:50 PM  
Blogger Wanda said...

An insightful piece Alisa. Our perception is colored by our experiences and only through the Spirit of God can our eyes see what we have been blind to before.

10:17 PM  
Blogger lioneagle said...

Hi Alisa -

Some years ago I read Beals' book. There is deep admiration for what they undertook and how they prevailed. To God be the glory.

Thank you for sharing this message that indeed taught and inspired.

6:57 AM  
Blogger Toyin O. said...

Well said Alisa, everyone has a unique revealation according to their life experiences. God works in diverse ways with different individuals, but we unified by the blood of Christ.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Alisa -

One preacher said it well, "Eat the meat, and spit out the bones." I've received much insight from those in other denominations. Always, always - my guide and final authority is the scripture.

Susan :)

7:39 PM  
Blogger Kim @ Stuff could... said...

I like this post about color and our lens with life. Yes we need an open mind with others.

9:08 PM  
Blogger Michael Manning said...

This was another in a series of exceptionally well written pieces that encourage and strengthen our lives! I remember seeing a news piece about this event, and learned that peace had been made between the White lady who was captured in a photo shouting at Black students. A new time and a new opportunity for Peace to build new friendships through God.

9:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you connect to others out of a loving relationship with God, differences cease to be divisive. You cannot reach out to another person with the back of your verbal hand, only with a grip reaching in loving relationship. It is not about compromise - but understanding. You always tackle the tough topics Alisa! You handled it with great vision!

4:45 PM  
Blogger Patti Hanan said...

I love your reminder that though our nation is far from perfect, we have experienced great victories won by people faithful to God's will. Yes, we all see through different lenses, but it is good to honor and respect our diversity in the body of Christ. Great post!

12:51 PM  
Blogger JT said...

It is good to listen to the ideas and beliefs of others. We just have to be true to ours. God bless you.

10:04 PM  
Blogger . said...

Hello, I come to via another friends blog.. I am co~author of and I enjoyed browsing your blog and wanted to introduce ourselves.. Heart of the Home is a womens ministry reaching out to women with encouragement from Gods word and his design for women as wives, mothers, friends and etc.. Hope you will get a chance to stop by and visit us, and that we can become Blogging Buddies.. Have a great weekend.. God Bless

11:24 AM  
Blogger Marsha @Spots and Wrinkles said...

I really appreciate your "unique lens on life."

Keep sharing your thoughts with us.

Blessings to you - Marsha

3:44 PM  
Blogger Sherri said...


I love reading your articles. I think with this and so many others you really hit the nail on the head. Looking for the good and what God has to offer through the different thoughts and opinions of others should not be divisive, but part of our spiritual journey. God has a path for each of us and a journey that we need to take to gain the full understanding and wisdom. Please keep writing and posting! God Bless.

10:53 PM  
Blogger Denise said...

you are a sweet blessing.

12:20 AM  

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