Thinking Out Loud

March 7, 2015

Haters Gonna Hate, Hate, Hate

While this is not a direct continuation of yesterday’s post, anyone who has interacted to any degree with the Christian blogosphere is aware that much strong opinion out there on a variety of topics. You can’t help but sense that many people are simply consumed by their obsession with people who don’t look like them or talk like them or belong to their tribe. Some of the best Christian authors and pastors are lined up in their sights and anything they write, say or even think is completely pre-judged. (I just deleted a blog from my computer’s bookmarks, because every time I clicked it, I found my blood pressure rising perceptibly from the first paragraph I would read.)

If you track with Thinking Out Loud’s sister blog, Christianity 201, you know that I’ve been very slowly working my way through a four-book series by Michael Card, the Biblical Imagination series, and I’m currently in the one on the third gospel, Luke: The Gospel of Amazement, which surfaces every few weeks. When I looked back to find the source of what follows, I couldn’t nail down a specific section to quote, but I don’t want to take full credit for this, Card’s writings have helped me put myself more into the picture of Jesus’ give and take with the crowd and the religious leaders.

Basically, today’s online haters are best described by the phrase, Modern Pharisees. As such they find themselves in opposition to people on two different levels.

Modern Pharisees Hate Sin

There’s no crime in that. Heck, God hates sin, right? But sometimes hating sin translates into hating the sinners themselves. To Jesus, a person’s performance record with reference to the standards of a Holy God was never in and of itself reason for condemnation. Rather, the term scripture uses translates as missing the mark. Our failure to meet those standards is part of larger nature that needs to be seen for what it is, and then, for those of us who are repentant of this, in our earnestness to please God and in our confession of that failure, we come to understand that we can’t ever make amends with God on our own. We need his help to lead a more God-pleasing life, but we also need is covering or atoning for our mark-missing which by implication means we need a savior. We find that in Jesus, we look to the cross, and then grant him Lordship over each and every detail of our life.

But this applies to everyone equally. Each one of us has that built-in, human tendency to stick our hand on the wall next to the “Wet Paint” sign. Or as Paul said it to the Romans, ‘All have missed the mark (or sinned) and come up short of God’s standards (or holiness.)’ So if you want to wave a placard that says ‘God Hates Fags,’ (which is not true), you need to also have one that says, ‘God Hates Adulterers,’ and ‘God Hates People Who Cheat on their Income Tax,’ and ‘God Hates People Who Steal Paperclips from Work,’ (all equally untrue) because basically, ‘There is none righteous, no not one.’

Except that God doesn’t hate anyone. He hates mark-missing because his standards are high. Very high. The highest. However, on the other hand, sending Jesus as an atonement was His idea. He lets us see our inability to achieve the standard and then, to as many as received that offer, to as many as believed on Jesus, he lets us off the hook, so to speak.

So hating sin is a God-paralleling thing to do. Hating sinners on the other hand is, well, sinful.

Modern Pharisees Hate Grace

And this is where it all gets weird. You would think that those who accept the offer are cause for celebration. Doesn’t the Bible saith that there is joy in the presence of the angels over one sinner that repenteth? Yeth, it doth! So if the angels are having a party, can we do any less?

The problem is that the thinking of many is bound by bounded set theory. This is the idea that there is a line and some people are in, and some people are out. Only your hairdresser knows for sure. While there is some truth in the idea that a time is coming when the sheep are separated from the non-sheep — I don’t wanna be a goat, nope — it’s wrong to think that it’s up to us to decide, or that it’s even up to us to worry about who’s who.

So…at the least suggestion that someone from the fringes might actually be in, there is much consternation and concern. Clearly, we can’t have that sort of thing going on, and the best way to deal with people who don’t look like us, act like us, dress like us, read the type of books we read, sing the kind of songs we like, etc., is to condemn them as heretical.

Because if they are in, well, that just cheapens grace. And that would make us all look bad, right? Given the chance to rewrite scripture, Modern Pharisees wouldn’t celebrate the return of the prodigal son, and the thief on the cross wouldn’t stand a chance.

But that’s grace. That’s what grace is. And grace was God’s idea. If you don’t like it, talk to Him.


 

Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea 
Higher than the mountain 
Sparkling like a fountain 
All sufficient grace for even me 
Broader than the scope of my transgressions 
Greater far than all my sin and shame 
O magnify the precious name of Jesus
Praise His name!

 

April 16, 2011

An Open Letter re. Theology Wars

Colin, at the simply titled blog Words, despairs over the recent theology wars that have erupted over things like heaven, things like hell, and things like the fate of every person who has ever lived; if you get my drift.  And so, he addresses both Christians and non-Christians in an open letter on his blog.  My first preference would be that you click and read it in context of his introduction, but failing that, I’ve reprinted it here.  In order to let its message fully percolate, he decided to close comments, and I’ve decided to follow suit here…

[to enlarge text hold down Ctrl and press + sign]

First, to my non-Christian friends:

I’m sorry. I can’t say this enough. Speaking on behalf of my incredibly dysfunctional family, Christians, I’m sorry that we’ve come across as the same self-righteous, I’m-right-you’re-wrong, jumping-to-conclusions, ignorant assholes that we always have. If you have Christian friends, I’m sure you’ve read some tweets, some Facebook discussions, or have even seen a news article on your favorite mainstream news website about how “evangelicals have called one of their own a heretic.”

“One of their own.”

It’s a shame, really.

I want to tell you that the true Gospel of Christ is so much bigger and so much better than these petty arguments that are going on right now in the Christian world. These debates don’t really matter in the long run. So please, try and look past the rhetorical argument (screaming match) going on right now and look at the living, breathing Christ standing behind it, because he sure as hell isn’t in it.

Matthew 7:16 says “by their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, and figs from thistles?” And Galatians 5:22-23 says “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” So as you look out across the Christian landscape, if you are going to judge us by anything—let it be that.

And I can’t stress enough that you try your hardest to not judge the God of the Bible by the way His followers are acting. Christ is alive and incarnate among us in Grace and Truth.

(And a side note, the earthquake/tsunami in Japan wasn’t Him either.)

Now, to my Christian friends:

We are not doing anything good for the Kingdom of God. Nothing. Our current arguments are nothing but rhetoric and in no way represent the living Christ.

Whatever “team” you are on in this current landscape, chances are that you are just “defending the true gospel.” The Gospel does not need to be defended. If we are walking in Grace and Truth like Jesus did, the true Gospel will speak louder than we ever could.

We must remember that we are one body with many parts. Our head is Christ. The body can’t survive if it cuts one of it’s own organs out. Well, it might survive, but it will walk with a limp at least.

If you are a Bell supporter, stop defending him. He’s a big boy and can take criticism. Defend nothing but the Gospel of Christ. His death and resurrection.

If you are a Bell detractor, please look at the fruit of his work before you start saying things like “false teacher,” “itching ears,” and “heretic.” Because if someone is leading folks toward the living Christ—that’s not false teaching. The false teachers the Scripture talks about would draw people away from Christ, not toward.

Regardless if you agree with Rob Bell or not (this is not about him by the way, this would be the same if any one else—Rick Warren, John Piper, John MacArthur, I don’t know—brought this conversation to light), he is doing work for the Kingdom of God. Matthew Paul Turner said on his blog yesterday that the fact of the matter is because of Bell’s message, many who probably closed the door on God a long time ago have a reason to reopen it. Let’s not give them a reason to slam it shut again. The Holy Spirit is the one who convicts, not us. If Bell’s teaching is off, the Holy Spirit of God will convict accordingly.

In John 13 Jesus, speaking to his followers, says that we will be known to the world by our love for one another. We must keep this at the top of our minds as we engage in public discourse. We are looking to the world right now less like two brothers who can’t get along, and more like two brothers who have decided to divorce themselves from their family.

If you believe the Bible is composed of the inerrant, literal words of God, that’s fine. I don’t. Which is also fine. I believe the Bible is authoritative, inspired by God, breathed by the Holy Spirit. I believe it’s the living, breathing Word of God. Literalist or not, we can both agree with that. The Word is Alive. Let’s let it be that and agree to disagree. If the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is at the center of our teaching, preaching, and conversation, everything else is just theology.

One more thing, Christians:

The fruit of the Spirit is

love,

joy,

peace,

patience,

kindness,

goodness,

faithfulness,

gentleness,

and self control.

Matthew 7:16 says “by their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, and figs from thistles?”

Correct answer: they don’t.

Blog at WordPress.com.