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Which “ism” is it?

There are a lot of “isms” to sort through in Christianity. We have Puritanism, Calvinism, Fundamentalism, Evangelicalism and the list goes on and on. Many of us feel forced to sift through different doctrines and philosophies trying to answer the question that plagues us every night in our sleep—which is the right one?

“Which ‘ism’ is the right one?” is a question I often ask. Should I believe in predestination or free will? Sprinkling or full submersion? If I am going to be a Christian, I want to do it right. I want to think correctly and immerse myself in the correct school of thought so that I can follow Jesus the best possible.

I was hanging out with an agnostic friend of mine I’ll call “Steven.” Steven works at a retail store that sells music, books and movies. He was complaining that he had to spend an entire shift organizing and stocking the Christian book section. “I don’t understand why there are so many books in that section,” he said. “I mean, shouldn’t there just be one book?”

It was at that moment that I realized the real damage that all of these different schools of thought have had. All these writings and philosophies aren’t just confusing to me; they are confusing to everyone, even non-believers.

Now I like reading Christian books as much as anyone, but Steven had a point. Why are there all of these different schools of thought on how to be a Christian? Why so many different beliefs? Why so many books? Why all the isms? Does following Jesus have to be this complicated?

I decided that the answer to my question of “which ism?” was not to read and delve into as much literature as I could dig through, but to simplify matters. I needed to address the question that was really plaguing my mind. When I wonder which doctrine is correct or which philosophy is right, I am not wondering “which ism?” so much as I am wondering “what is it that God wants from me?” How am I supposed to live for Him?

I decided to take a cue from my conversation with Steven and narrow my search. Instead of looking through different books for the answer, I just looked at “the one book.”

Jesus gives us the ultimate command in every book of the Gospel. In chapter ten of Luke, an expert in the law asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus says, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The expert says “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Jesus replies, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live” (Luke 10:25-28, TNIV).

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Jesus states this command even more directly in John 15:17, “This is my command: Love each other.”

We have all heard this a thousand times, but it really is the answer when it comes to the questions of “what are we to do?” and “what are we to believe?” Perhaps we should spend our time concerning ourselves with these two commands.

Which doctrine is correct? Which is the best philosophy? If we dedicate ourselves to loving God and loving people, these questions will either take care of themselves or become insignificant and disappear entirely. Does knowing the answer to the question of free will or predestination help us love God and love people better? We are to love because that is what we are commanded by Jesus to do, not because a writer had a different interpretation of scripture than the other Christians at the time.

So, let’s leave behind the isms. Let’s focus on truly loving God and people with all that we have in us. And if people ever ask what your doctrine is, what philosophy you follow, what your “ism” is, tell them you don’t have one. But if you feel you must give them an answer, tell them you follow “love-ism” and that you are a “Jesus-ist.”

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