I sat in my seat, staring out the window at the night, my insides consumed with nervousness, the van filled with silence. My father drove, I sat. We both knew we were about to have a conversation that would be hard, serious, and awkward. I was terrified. I knew what I wanted to say, but I didn’t know if I would be able to. Or how he would take it. How he would respond.
This was the first time I’d disagreed with him. And I had no clue what that meant or what happened next.
Of course, before I was saved, before my transformation, before I became the new creation in Christ that I am now, I disagreed with him on everything. As a matter of principle. I was at war with my parents, and my only interest in their beliefs or instruction was how to use them as a mask to bolster my hypocrisy. But now… now I cared. I had repented of my rebellion and embraced submission. I finally had learned the joys of teachableness.
I had embarked recently on a journey of defining myself. I dug deeply into who I was, what I believed, how I wanted to live my life. I examined everything I had been handed from my parents, not distrustfully or arrogantly, but respectfully and gratefully. I wanted to make my beliefs my own by verifying and instantiating their foundations within myself. Blessedly, the more I learned about the reasons behind my father’s teachings and beliefs, the more I respected them and the more I respected him. And when I found a disagreement or a confusion, I had invariably found them to be due to a misunderstanding on my part.
And my mouth was dry. I wanted to understand. I wanted to learn. I wanted to believe the truth. I had studied, prayed, researched, sought the answers to the quandary I’d been faced with, and I knew where all the evidence I saw was leading me. I saw the perspective my father had presented me with, and I thought I understood it relatively well. As best I could, I stood in his shoes and looked at the problem from his eyes as he explained it. And I still disagreed.
I still disagreed.
I was about to tell him that. And I had no idea what would happen afterwards. I loved, and do love, my father deeply. I respect him tremendously, his wisdom, his faith, his intellect, his experience, his knowledge. He is an amazing man, blessed superlatively by God. I trusted him. But I’d also seen families torn asunder by disagreements. I’d seen relationships wrecked. I didn’t trust myself, really, to not wreck the trust God had given me the opportunity to earn at long last. And so I was afraid.
I finally opened my mouth, and with many stutterings and circumlocution, explained my position. And there was silence.
And then Papa started talking. And my life changed.
He said he saw where I was coming from. He said he still disagreed with me. He then said that he respected me and my maturity, my ability to prayerfully and intelligently come to a conclusion. He said that I was in a different place in life, with different life experiences, with different insights. He said that there was a possibility that in those experiences there might be something which made me right and him wrong, and yet which I could not articulate to him and he could not perceive, simply because we were in different places in the journey towards truth. A newborn Christian may be given a bit of wisdom which another Christian may not acquire until his 90th year of salvation, on his deathbed. And yet that older Christian might have learned a piece of truth which the newborn Christian never will learn until Heaven. We each learn different things at different times. And my father said that because of that, and because he respected me as a man and a man of God, he respected my belief, even though he disagreed with it.
It wasn’t a salvific issue. It wasn’t an issue for disfellowshipping or discipline. It was a matter of practical theology, of application of Scriptural principles in the best manner for a godly way of life. But in that moment, I felt and believed that my father acknowledged me as a man. In that moment, my respect, affection, trust, and estimation of my father exponentiated dramatically. He’d levelled up in my eyes, and so had I. In that moment, I learned about a new kind of maturity. And in that moment, I became a Lauser, a man of my father’s dynasty and family, more than ever before.
I had occasion to exercise that maturity only a few months later, when I found myself in prison and trying to discover how to fellowship with the Church in an environment where no one agreed with me on anything but the bare fundamentals. If I held to my denominational identity as the criteria for what services to attend or which Bible studies to participate in or who to have deep fellowship with and learn from, I would have created an island of one.
I was doctrinally alone. And yet I was surrounded by Christians. Men who loved my Savior as much as I, who were as loyal to the Gospel as I, who were just as passionate about the pursuit of truth and holiness as I.
I had no luxury of choice of just choosing the assembly down the road. I had what was available, and that was it. To refuse to attend a service from another denomination would be to refuse to attend services. That was not an option. I needed to be a living and connected part of the Body of Christ to survive. I knew that to cut myself off from my fellow brothers would be to cut myself off from the power and life of God Himself.
And so I exercised the maturity I had seen in my father, and I recognised the common ground we possessed in the Gospel. I listened. I learned. I discussed. I questioned. I exercised discernment. Where I still disagreed, I respected; where I discovered myself lacking or in error, I embraced the truth. And I thanked God for their perspectives and what I was able to learn from them, either way.
This is pandenominationalism, and where it began in my life.