In religious life, the knowledge that divides us can be doctrinal. However, other kinds of knowledge can prove a more subtle danger. If I know that some churches orchestrate their services with care, skill, and beauty, it can become difficult for me to worship in a service that does not come with a detailed outline and unswerving schedule. If I know that some buildings have stained glass, I might regret the plain sanctuary of a less affluent congregation. If I know that some Sunday school classes provoke lively, thoughtful discussion, I might resent other styles of teaching.
During his sermon, the pastor of First Southern mentioned a passage from C.S. Lewis's God in the Dock. In this essay, Lewis answers a number of questions about the Christian life. His response to the following question about the role of the church reminded me how important it is to humble knowledge--even right knowledge--to love:
Is attendance at a place of worship or membership with a Christian community necessary to a Christian way of life?
That's a question which I cannot answer. My own experience is that when I first became a Christian, about fourteen years ago, I thought that I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and I wouldn't go to the churches and Gospel Halls; [...] If there is anything in the teaching of the New Testament which is in the nature of a command, it is that you are obliged to take the Sacrament, and you can't do it without going to Church. I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit bean peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren't fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit. (God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994. 61-62)
How would you answer the question Lewis tackles? Is attending church and belonging to a Christian community necessary for the Christian life?