Here’s what we have to say to that. In Acts 10:34-35, when meeting with the gentile centurion Cornelius, the apostle Peter explained what God had revealed to him: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that fears (respects) him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him.”
In Romans 2:9-11, Paul explained, “There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on sinning—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who do good—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.”
Did the thief on the cross have a “correct doctrine?” Of course he didn’t. He had not studied the sacred texts and formed the correct conclusions. He knew nothing of what was said in the sacred texts. And yet Jesus promised that he would be in Heaven with him that very day. Why? Because he had a kind and gentle heart and a merciful spirit and he defended a man he didn’t ever know while he suffered in agony himself. He called Jesus Lord and asked that he remember him when he entered his Kingdom, but not having been exposed to “correct Doctrine” he was speaking from his heart, nothing else. Furthermore, he had not been baptized.
Did Jesus make a special exception for the thief on the cross? No. That would contradict the many passages in the Bible where it states that God is no respecter of persons and he does not show favoritism.
We can just about guarantee that the man who said we didn’t have “correct doctrine” was referring to two things. Can you guess what they are? Of course you can: Abortion and Gay Marriage. It’s sad and unfortunate that almost every member of The “Christian” Right has turned these two issues into idols. They obsess about them day and night. They are the all import litmus tests to salvation, more important to them than all other things. They have missed the entire point of the Gospel.
We must pray for those who have made “correct doctrine” their idol. They miss the spirit and meaning of what scripture says and instead worship the Bible itself. They are unable to see what God is saying between the lines of ink.
It's very important to read the Bible often for one reason, and one reason only: To get to know God. When we're done reading, mediating and praying there comes a time to put the Bible down until next time and go out and practice what it says, always asking the Spirit to open our eyes and guide us.
Jesus chastised the Pharisees in Matthew 23 saying: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness."
When people tell other people that disagreement with their doctrine on abortion and gay marriage for instance means that they aren't Christians and they never can be unless they change their minds (and they often do tell people this very thing) they are putting up two idols in front of God (blocking people from God) that are MORE important than God. That is idolatry pure and simple.
Jesus warned about this tactic as well in Matthew 23: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to."
Read Matthew 23 and you'll see what Jesus thinks of people who obsess on doctrine but have not internalized the Spirit of what it's saying in its totality.
Leviticus 19:18 proclaims: Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
Proverbs 10:12 says: Hatred stirs up strife: but love covers all sins.
1 Peter 4:8 says: Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
1 Corinthians 13:2 says: If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:13 says: And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Jesus says in Luke 6:35: But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward in heaven will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.
On a similar note Jesus explains in Matthew 22:37-40: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. And a second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.
Galatians 5:14 states: For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
James 2:8 echoes a the core theme once again: If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.
The entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 explains exactly what “love” is and how a person showing love behaves. It doesn’t say a single thing about so-called “tough love,” or insist that loving someone means making sure they believe “correct doctrine.”
Incidentally, our Theology is pretty simple, and it’s based on simple language stated in the Gospels. Still, it isn’t ironclad in the sense that those who never had a chance to hear it (i.e., Native Americans living in North and South America in antiquity, or anyone else never exposed to it) will still be accepted by God if they respected God and worked righteousness.
Did you catch what Peter said in the second paragraph of this blog post? “… but in every nation he that fears (respects) him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him.” Every nation? That’s correct, and every nation means every nation.
Here is a link to our very simple and very Biblical Theology:
This blog is linked in the article above but the links aren't obvious regarding the topic. It's an excellent followup to the above article: The Big Four - Agree With Us Or You're Not A Christian
On a final note we want to emphasize that no human being is even close to perfect at loving. When we choose to follow Jesus it's a lifelong journey and a daily pursuit to stretch ourselves to love the way he wants us to love. It takes daily practice and we fail frequently. All he asks is that we keep our eyes on him and keep attempting to learn his ways and put them into action.