Saturday, March 10, 2007

I have a confession

I would have, at one time in my Christianity, written a blog exactly like this one (Click here). I relished reading scripture about judgement (everyone else's, not mine). Mine was a theology of hell, fire, and brimestone. Sure, I loved people - I loved them with the TRUTH! Scripture in my hands was a weapon and you would have to be damn sure of your orthodoxy and righteousness in my prescense.

Thank God chinks began to develop in that armor over time (it pains me to think of the damage I caused back then). I remember one of the first chinks. A friend of mine popped in a Leslie Phillips cassette and she sang out, "It's your kindness that leads us to repentance O Lord".

"What a stupid thing to say", I retorted. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Her sin being revealed will cause her to repent".

Later that night I read in the Psalms - It is your kindness that leads us to repentance O Lord. I sat there stunned... what a wimpy thing... this sounded almost liberal. I knew then that God was kind enough to reveal to me something about his nature that I was choosing to overlook.

Looking back now, I realize that it was my own insecurities that were driving my hard-nosed theology. Being right and using God as your trump card gives one a great sense of power and satisfaction. Thank God that, as Malcom X said near the end of his life, "I am more flexible now".

I responded to the blog mentioned above and I will paste it here. It is interesting that, as I re-read it, I still hear my own sense of "I am right, you are wrong". I wonder if that need will ever be fully exercised from me?

I have to disagree with the over arching view of the author's point.

Paul's main rivalries in the faith were those Christian's who wanted to maintain the law and thereby make of the gentiles a second class citizen in the faith (or better yet, not a citizen at all). He was encouraging the Romans to avoid those who would say "my Christianity is better than yours and you need to be like me". The ones he was telling them to avoid were, in effect, trying to place a monopoly on the Grace of God, so that others would have to come to them in order to be judged qualified. Paul encouraged the new converts to avoid them because, like the Pharisees, they were right and everyone else was wrong, and it is impossible to hold a conversation with someone caught up in that kind of thinking.

I am sure there was some arrogance driving the Pharisees and later the Christians who wanted to be on the top tier, but mostly I see it as fear. They say most bullies do what they do out of a need for control. The Pharisees ran around pointing out where everyone else was wrong. Like bullies, it gave them a sense of security to put others beneath them. Paul later dealt with the Christian version of the Pharisees (they never really go away).

The thing is, the Pharisees were not wrong. In a technical sense, they were not wrong to say many of the things they said (even against Jesus). However, they had a horrible attitude about people. I am sure they would have said, "Hey, we are just showing we love them by telling them the truth!" Jesus didn't buy that line then, and I think we should reject it now.

Jesus probably would be judged a heretic by many of today's Christian churches. He would probably fail at many points of orthodoxy, and he would enjoy the company of people who annoy most Christians.

We would be like the Pharisees and Zealots of his time. We would want him to fight against the immoral structures, speak out against an ungodly society, help us separate wheat from the chaff. Join us in the battle of us vs. them. Stand for truth!

He would look at us with loving bewilderment. "Umm... I was just gonna head down to the park to spend the day talking to the homeless, but I would love to have you join me".

We would shake our heads as he walked away. Slowly, we would convince ourselves that it was not him but a false Christ that was trying to deceive us. Having ferreted out another false Christ, we would walk away a little deeper in our pride than we had been formerly.

I don't think Paul was telling us to avoid people who did not believe rightly about doctrinal points such as the trinity. Remember Paul's core point was "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost.” The people Paul was telling them to avoid were those Christians who thought they were better than everyone else (they did not see themselves as foremost among sinners... they were sure they had it together). He wanted us to avoid those who felt we had to measure up to their standard in order to be acceptable to Christ.

Jesus dealt with these people, Paul dealt with these people, and we are still dealing with them today.

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