In First Corinthians, the third chapter, Paul addresses a major problem that was occurring in the Corinthian church. Several people had appeared, preaching the gospel, and the result was that people were clustering around the various leaders, including Apollos, Cephas (Peter), and Paul. Paul chastises them, reminding them that they are to follow Christ, not men.
It occurs to me that we haven’t changed much in two thousand years. Today, people will proudly announce that they are Catholic, or Southern Baptist, or Independent Fundamental Baptist, or Presbyterian, or any other denomination. In some churches, the pastor will even stand up in front of the congregation and bash on another denomination’s shortcomings!
How is what we do so different from what the church in Corinth did? Catholics follow one set of teachings, Lutherans follow those of Martin Luther, Anglicans follow yet another. Aren’t we all supposed to be Christians, first? Aren’t we all brothers and sisters in Christ? I suspect that, in our zealousness to be absolutely correct in our theology, we forget that we often don’t know much.
Ask yourself this: what can you learn from denominations other than your own? The Roman Catholic church has survived for almost two thousand years. Thanks to it, many documents were preserved through the dark ages, and it harbored some of the greatest theologians ever. Martin Luther reminded us that the Bible can be read and understood by anyone. He helped refocus people on what Christianity is about. Various Pentecostal groups reminded us that the Holy Spirit can move now, just as it did in the first century church.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t pursue truth and reject falsehood. I’m just saying, perhaps we should focus more on what we all believe, and what we can learn from each other, than on our disagreements. Now, there are heresies that appear, and those should be dealt with. If someone denies the importance of the death of Christ, for example, it is important that you lovingly confront and correct the person. On the other hand, if someone doesn’t accept that Mary had other children (thus giving Jesus younger brothers to confront), is that really a huge deal? Does the organizational structure of a church/denomination really matter?
In the end, I think we should respect differences of opinion and have a healthy debate over them. I don’t think we should end up in internal divisions and strife between denominations over them, though. I know that I, at least, have not yet come into all knowledge and wisdom. I doubt anyone else has either, aside from Jesus.