February 26, 2014
Christians in the World
For some reason, a difference of opinion is no longer tolerated. Surely, it can be understood that where there is a deep divide, especially where the sides are nearly equal, there is a difference of opinion, and differences are okay. Our opinions and values come from a variety of sources. Differing opinions does not mean the other side is ignorant, though some individuals may be (we are all ignorant of something). Christians could benefit to realize where the other side differs. Others could also benefit to know why Christians believe the way they do.
One world view involves humans being free to pursue their own interests, and even choose variant behaviors, usually assuming it is of no harm to others. This can be called humanism – humans at center. True Christians believe in God and the Son of God; they believe in a very literal sense and therefore believe in the life, commandments, and promises of Jesus Christ. These statements are laden. The result is a distinction that will surely cause strife: Christians believe foremost in surrender, putting God first. This is an unacceptable notion for most people. Our culture believes in the person first, surrender is among last options.
For all of American history, our culture and government have been at least very accommodating to Christianity. It has been said we were a Christian nation, at least founded on Christian principles. This has been used and abused, but is no longer true. Christians are slowly but surely facing changes that are uncomfortable. It will become very uncomfortable. We were told we would be hated; it is here.
The accusations are that the Christian way is outmoded and Christians hold to ignorant precepts. Frankly, there is some truth to these charges. The offers of Christ are extended to all, even the most simple; it doesn’t take brilliance to believe, only faith. It was made clear that most “comfortable” people will not choose this way. If you are wise and sophisticated, you will have to share faith in God with the dull and simple. But, for those who find the way to bridge the gap between knowledge and faith, a gift from God confirms and extends their faith.
Recently, a columnist used Roy Herron’s assertion that he (Herron) “is a Democrat because he is Christian” to attack conservatives who, to him are self-righteous and uncaring. He seems especially frustrated that conservative Christians are not tolerant, especially toward sexual freedom, though he doesn’t elaborate what his personal issue is with this. Much of the vitriol leveled at Christians is somewhat deserved. It is true that Christians are often judgmental, and it is also true that Christian means various things in our culture. It might be said that Jesus was morally conservative and socially liberal. These are imperfect labels, but defensible. This is a reflection of the great commandment: love of God is our commitment to his commandments; love of neighbor is our commitment to service. Christians who determine to follow Christ must deal with both. Some will choose to emphasize one over the other, but neither should be dismissed. In fact, I believe much of our current conflict arises from an imbalance in these. As an individual, a Christian would do well to go to the extreme to help the poor and needy. This is emphasized throughout Scripture. Some Christians would say this is enough. Others believe Christians should not ignore the call to righteous living by Scripture, demonstrative of love of God. The call to fidelity and justice in relationships is well defined in Old Testament Scripture, and is reiterated in New Testament Scripture. We are not authorized to change these principles. What Jesus did change is that we are not to condemn. Concerning the woman caught in adultery, he made followers to understand that they could not condemn and stone her. But, he (not they) told her to “go and sin no more”.
There will continue to be disagreement on the role of government. Jesus’ teachings were for individual followers, not governments. He was apolitical. The challenge for true followers of Christ is to maintain personal holiness while following the command to love our neighbor. It is a choice to pursue both love of neighbor and personal holiness (obedience to God). We are neither Republican nor Democrat, liberal nor conservative. We are simply followers of Christ.