To the extent that one does what one believes, it is important what one believes, but for the most part, it's what you do, not what you say! If one lives religiously, then it is important to the safety of others that one believes what is right; for instance, if one believes that all who do not share the same belief ( infidel ) should die, then that one should probably re-examine his or her beliefs! If, however, one who claims that doctrine, but does not practice that aspect of his or her belief, but acts according to what the apostle James calls True Religion ( James 1:27 ), then does it really matter what that one says he or she believes?
Doctrine, then, is important, but unless that doctrine is practiced, like the apostle also said, it is dead, useless ( James 2:14-26 )! On the other hand, one cannot practice what one does not know, so if one does not hold to correct doctrine, then it will be hard to condemn that one for acting wrongly, right? However, since God's Law is now written on the hearts of His People, even if one does not necessarily hold correct doctrine, he or she will, 9 times out of 10, act on what they know to be right, which is 'to visit orphans and widows in their trouble'!
In many of today's Congregations, it seem that while the congregants are encouraged to do good works, more emphasis is placed upon correct, or orthodox doctrine! The doctrine of The Second Coming ( of Christ ) for instance, is one of the most important & widely-held doctrines to most Christians, yet does this doctrine feed or clothe the needy? Does this doctrine encourage its subscribers to good work, as described above by James? Truthfully, this doctrine seems to have the effect of making those who hold it almost unconcerned about this world, because they seem to believe that Jesus will change it all when He returns!
The fact that Jesus returned when He said He would, to that 'generation' ( Matthew 24:34 ) seems rather to infuriate those who claim orthodoxy! If those who uphold the glorious fact that Jesus brought His Kingdom 'on earth as it is in heaven' are living according to their belief, then why should they still be condemned by the orthodox as heretics headed for some mythical hell? Why are not many of those who claim orthodoxy living as Kingdom citizens, but simply waiting for Jesus to come back so they can be free of what the apostle Paul called, 'this body of death' ( or, more correctly, maybe, 'the body of this death'-Romans 7:24 ) & for Him to solve the problem of evil!
The Institutional Church has, for centuries, has taught as of utmost importance, propositions about Christ & assertions about who He is, rather than how we are to live in His Presence now & how we are to act as 'the leaves of the tree' ( of Life ) that are for 'the healing of the nations'! Our Father tells us plainly, in the Revelation of His Word, how we are to live, as subjects & citizens, His Family really, in His Kingdom; Jesus gave His disciples this general principle, 'Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets' ( Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31 ). Furthermore, in summation of His Law for Israel, He said 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ( Matthew 22:37-39 ) Anymore than this is mere propositions & doctrines of men!
It is good to hold to a certain doctrine, especially when it is the pure & unadulterated doctrine of Scripture! It is even better, however, to practice, not simply the doctrine you subscribe to, but what is right, good & just ( Micah 6:8 )! When more Christians begin to focus on Unity rather than Uniformity, and practice rather than doctrine, then we will see such a change in this world such as has not been seen since the 1st century! Now, again, doctrine is good, but doctrine only goes so far; it will not clothe or feed a needy person, only good, practiced religion will accomplish that!
So you hold to the correct & orthodox doctrine; awesome! So you practice your faith; infinitely better!
Charles Haddon Shank