Last Good Friday, nineteen men were crucified in San Pedro Cutud, Pampanga. This Easter crucifixion tradition is “an extreme form of penance” or trying to cleanse oneself from sin. It is good that the Roman Catholic Church expressed disapproval to the practice. According to a priest, “The church does not recommend it because the church is against self-flagellation… when we express our faith to the Lord the Church does not want us to hurt ourselves for us to experience the Love of God.” However, I disagree with what the priest said next: “But we cannot question somebody’s faith. It’s just an expression of their faith. We do not lead their lives so we do not know what happens to them while experiencing that, so we might as well respect it.” Now, I am not questioning the sincerity of these devotees. But we must question the practice.
When we say we accept the different, it does not mean we will agree with everything. Yes, as our acronym goes, we are to ACCEPT one another in Christ. We are commanded in Romans 15:7, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” But that does not mean we will compromise the truth of the Word of God. We are to CONCENTRATE on the essentials. When it comes to principles we must make a stand. When it comes to theology we must draw the line.
Now, if it is just a matter of preference, if it is just an issue of taste, we are to CONCEDE differences. We can agree to disagree with each other. Romans 14:1 command us, “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” Note that there are disputable matters. Ever since, Christians held different opinions on what food to eat, what clothes to wear, what holidays to observe, and the list goes on and on. But we are “not to quarrel over opinions.” We will discuss more these differences in opinion when we tackle Romans 14 in detail starting next week. What is important is we “Don’t criticize [others] for having beliefs that are different from [ours].” There are some people who think it is their duty to correct everything in others. Sadly, they end up becoming so critical. We are commanded, “Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with”.
But when it comes to the truth, the Bible urges us “to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” The Message version goes like this, “I have to write insisting—begging!—that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish.” This morning we will focus more on “Concentrate on the essentials.”
Here in Makati Gospel Church, we have spelled out the essentials in our statement of faith. We discuss it during the baptismal and membership class. We also follow the principle, “In the essentials, let there be unity. In the non-essentials, let there be liberty. In all things, let there be charity” or love. Now, how do we spell out what the essentials are?