Daily Reading for October 9 • Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, Medical Missionary, 1940
No one can write his real religious life with pen or pencil. It is written only in actions, and its seal is our character, not our orthodoxy. Whether we, our neighbour, or God is the judge, absolutely the only value of our “religious” life to ourselves or to any one is what it fits us for and enables us to do. Creeds, when expressed only in words, clothes, or abnormal lives, are daily growing less acceptable as passports to Paradise. What my particular intellect can accept cannot commend me to God. His “well done” is only spoken to the man who “wills to do His will.”
We map the world out into black and white patches for “heathen” and “Christian”—as if those who made the charts believed that one section possessed a monopoly of God’s sonship. Europe was marked white, which is to-day comment enough on this division. A black friend of mine used often to remind me that in his country the Devil was white. . . .
Because I owed so much to evangelical teachers, it worried me for a long while that I could not bring myself to argue with my boys about their intellectual attitude to Christ. My Sunday class contained several Jews whom I loved. I respected them more because they made no verbal professions. I have seen Turkish religionists dancing and whirling in Asia Minor at their prayers. I have seen much emotional Christianity, and I fully realize the value of approaching men on their emotional side. A demonstrative preacher impresses large crowds of people at once. But all the same, I have learned from many disillusionments to be afraid of overdoing emotionalism in religion. Summing up the evidence of men’s Christlikeness by their characters, as I look back down my long list of loved and honoured helpers and friends, I am certainly safe in saying that I at least should judge that no section of Christ’s Church has any monopoly of Christ’s spirit; and that I should like infinitely less to be examined on my own dogmatic theology than I should thirty-five years ago. Combined with this goes the fact that though I know the days of my stay on earth are greatly reduced, I seem to be less rather than more anxious about “the morrow.” For though time has rounded off the corners of my conceit, experience of God’s dealing with such an unworthy midget as myself has so strengthened the foundations on which faith stood, that Christ now means more to me as a living Presence than when I laid more emphasis on the dogmas concerning Him. . . .
I am writing of my religion. The churches are now teaching that religion is action, not diction. There was a time when I could work with only one section of the Church of God. Thank God, it was a very brief period, but I weep for it just the same. Now I can not only work with any section, but worship with them also. If there is error in their intellectual attitudes, it is to God they stand, not to me. Doubtless there is just as much error in mine. To me, he is the best Christian who “judges not.” To claim a monopoly of Christian religion for any church, looked at from the point of view of following Jesus Christ, is ridiculous. So I find that I have changed, changed in the importance which I place on what others think and upon what I myself think. . . .
Perhaps my change spells more and not less faith in the Saviour of the world. As I love the facts of life more, I care less for fusty commentators. As I see more of Christ’s living with us all the days, I care less for arguments about His death. I have no more doubt that He lives in His world to-day than that I do. Why should I blame myself because more and more my mind emphasizes the fact that it is because He lives, and only so far as He lives in me, that I shall live also?
From A Labrador Doctor by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1919); found at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/22372/22372-h/22372-h.htm#CHAPTER_XXVII