Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cultural Relevance, pt. 2

This week I'm exploring the idea of how Christians should relate to the rest of culture. Should we try and fit in? How relevant are we to be? In the first post, I discussed how Christians are to be different from the world. Now comes the other, harder part. I believe that we are not supposed to attempt to make the rest of the world look like us.

What exactly do I mean by that?

I feel that over the past several years (rather, centuries... pretty much since we got too big to be led by 11 men who physically knew Jesus), Christians have been making themselves a thorn in other's sides. We make a point of forcing others to live like us, using various methods, including but not limited to murder (the Inquisition), laws, and heckling (such as occurs outside of abortion clinics). By doing so, we are turning people further away from God and burning any bridges we may have had to reach them.

I have listened carefully over the years to the reasoning behind these actions. I have listened to pastors and laypeople, read articles and watched news clips. The justification I have repeatedly heard for this behavior boils down to one thing: sin. Homosexuality is a sin; abortion is a sin; being a (fill in the blank with whatever political party is opposite your own beliefs) is a sin. Since it is a sin, I must speak out against it.

I have an inquisitive mind and love an intellectual challenge, so I decided to do some research into this logic. I wanted to know: what does the Bible say about all this?

Here's what I saw by looking at Jesus' example:
  1. Jesus is not easy on sin. When people were gathered inside the temple to do business, Christ "made a whip out of cords and drove them all from the temple area" (John 2:15). He is not afraid to speak out against the Pharisees and teachers of the law, rightly accusing them of sin (John 9:41). Jesus identifies sin for what it is.
  2. Jesus is, however, forgiving. Look at the story in Luke 5:17-26, where he heals the man whose friends lowered him through the roof. "When Jesus saw their faith, he said, 'Friend, your sins are forgiven.'" Then he healed the man. Christ responds this way many times. "Your sins are forgiven." "Go and sin no more." Even on the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).

The lesson? Jesus knew what sin was and was bold enough to call it such. He was also quick to forgive that sin when people turned to Him. I think we can all agree on this much.

There's more to this story, however. Paul throws this doozy of a verse at us:

What business of mine is it to judge those outside the church? Are you not to
judge those inside? God will judge those outside. 1 Corinthians 5:12-13

Christ makes a distinction between those inside and outside of faith, too. His comment is a response to the disciples' questions about parables:

The secret of the kingdom of god has been given to you. But to those on the
outside everything is said in parables. Mark 4:11

Time for a culturally unacceptable word: double standard. In this case, it's a correct description of what Christ is perscribing. There is one moral standard for those inside the church and another for those outside. There is Christ and life for those inside, and death for those outside. God's always done this -- called a people out of the nations for himself. There have always been those who were called to a higher life and those left behind. First it was the Israelites. Now, it is the Christians.

Out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole
earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Exodus

Like I voiced in my last post, Christians are supposed to be different. We are called to live a sinless life through Christ.

My biggest issue with the protestors, legislators, and other "thorny" people is that I believe they have too narrow a view of sin. Sin is doing things your way instead of God's way. "Everything that does not come from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23). Sure, homosexuality is a sin. So is pride... envy... lack of trust... and anger (which Christ likens to murder, Matt 5:21-22). And even though we are called to live a sinless life (Romans 6:2), not a one of us can (Romans 7:7-25).

Christ warns us against such behavior:

Do not judge, or you to will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own? Matt 7:1-3

Although I believe in confronting sin and calling it what it is, we have to follow Christ's model. Christ confronted those within the church with their sins. As to the rest of the world? Christ ministered to them when they came to Him, but he didn't go out and abuse them. That would be counter productive. Instead he acted with love and mercy, attracting others to Himself in a non-threatening way. When the opportunity arose, He spoke truth and allowed them to respond. Some followed, some didn't. Since Christ is our model, I firmly believe that we are to act the same way.

We know the Key to eternal life, and He wants us to tell others about Him. We aren't to abuse others about their sins... we need Christ. And until Christ comes and does what He's going to do, we cannot make the rest of the world look like us.


Anonymous said...

Finally catching up on your posts since being back. These both are great! I really like what you say in this one, too. I pretty much completely agree :)

Jenny P. said...

We agree?!? That's nearly a first :) I've put a lot of thought and research into this... I hope it comes across.

Just out of curiosity (and to guide further study on my part), where do you NOT agree?