Call me naive but early on in my Christian walk I assumed some things about the faith that I’d thought were “a given.” Over ten years ago, I was running a job for a commercial heating and cooling company out of Columbus, Ohio. I heard a man singing a hymn, approached him, and tried to strike up a conversation with what I assumed was another believer. Instead, I ran into the “You don’t look like me, don’t think exactly like I do, and so, ‘you must not be a Christian.’” An altogether uncomfortable but necessary learning experience. Especially, given the current cultural mosh pit that we are living in.
In what follows you will find, I suppose further clarification of what I had written about in a previous post entitled, War and Violence, Peace and Unity: What Do These Four Terms Have to Do With the Christian Worldview?. Not a very well read piece. I suppose that it may have something to do with the title. Christians get uncomfortable using certain words to describe the Christian faith and gospel of Christ on which it revolves. Meaning that terms like “war,” and “violence,” seem antithetical to what many well-intentioned, but nonetheless uninformed members of the Evangelical community identify with as a spirit filled Christianity. It is also possible that wasn’t well-written, in that case I apologize for not being clearer.
Syncretism plagued Israel during Elijah’s day. It most certainly has a strong foothold on those that claim membership in the Christian family today. My concern is that we need to tread carefully as we walk out our faith, and yet at the same time stand steadfastly upon a fixed standard. And I should add we ought be very cautious that the standard upon which we are steadfastly standing is in fact one that is worthy of our undying commitment. I think that is where the guy I mentioned earlier stumbled a bit.
Objectivity NOT Quick Observations…
Christians ought to be unified on Truth. All this talk nowadays about being peaceful and unified, essentially ignoring all differences, is not the type of “oneness” that I am speaking about. Our judgment needs to be firmly grounded in biblical truth not outward appearances. The one is an objective standard that does not waver on the seas or winds of life. Whereas, the other is highly subjective, differing from one degree to the next.
To be crystal clear here, a true believer is not dependent on what they look like on the outside, but on the inside. Because we are severely limited in our view of our human counterparts, we tend to err when we seek to determine the status of a person’s relationship with God. Like Samuel we might think someone is an appropriate picture of the Christian faith (a genuine believer in God), but a deeper look at the heart (intellect, will, and character) would reveal something else entirely (cf. 1Sam 16.7). This is something that we are ill-equipped to do. Even judging the fruits of some, as Jesus says we ought to do, requires a longer look at someone’s life than many care to give (cf. Matt 12.33).1
Therefore, it is not skin color, tattoos, piercings, hairstyles, clothing, height, weight, class (i.e., rich or poor, popular or unpopular), or any other number of observations we may apply to this person or that person, this group or that group that determines the faith of another. What determines it is where they stand in regards to the Truth of God’s Word. You may look differently than me, but if you stand firm with Jesus Christ, then we are on the same side. We may fall on different spectrum of the same truth, but we are still called members of God’s family.2
Where you stand…
What does it mean to stand with Christ? How does one stand on the Truth of God’s Word? Can I truly be said to be united with Christ, and adherent of the Truth of God’s Word, if I give voice to those things that the Lord declares an abomination? If the Holy Spirit warns us against the types of unions we become involved in (cf. 2Cor 6.14-15), challenging us to think through our intimate associations (not limited to marital unions), then how can we give approval to blatant sins? We should not. We cannot. For to stand with Christ and His Word means that we must stand against all opposition to His Namesake:
“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2Cor 10.5; ESV).2Corinthians 10:5; ESV
However, in order to take such a stand, in order to attempt to bring all thoughts captive under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we must be willing to stand on His Word. And how can we be considered wise in our standing, if we do not know the Rock upon which our feet ought to be firmly planted? Moreover, how do we prove that our feet are firmly planted on this Rock and not on shifting sand, if we refuse to submissively obey?
Exercises of Faith…
Faith is not a work of man, but it is a work of God’s grace! For faith that is without good works—acts of humble obedience to our Lord and Savior—is truly a false faith. Do you not know that it is what you do that reveals what you are?
- How then can you say that the murdering of unborn infants in the womb is a right that needs to be afforded? Who gave you the sovereignty to determine when to end a life or when it was good to sanction its coming into the world?
- How then can you say rather than focusing on the blood of Christ that redeems lost sinners from every tribe and nation and language upon this earth that we must maintain our outward distinctions? Who gave you the sovereignty to determine the worthiness of white vs. black?3
- How then can you say that marriage is defined by cultural consensus (male and male, female and female), rather than by our Creator’s edict (male and female, woman for the man)? Or, that male and female is a distinction defined by feelings rather than God-given scientific, observable characteristics? Who gave you the sovereignty to determine what constitutes a good marriage and a genuine gender?
- How can you say that governmental theft of personal property is a good thing as long as you or some other that you feel strongly about is the recipient of the funds? Who gave you sovereignty over the labors and wealth of your fellow man?
How can you call for peace and unity, when such things are at war with the one you profess as Lord and Savior? Who are you showing your faith in when you support things that violently oppose the Truth of God’s Word? If we are genuine in our faith, then our faith needs to be engaged at a level beyond the surface of our skin. Christians may not look alike in the immediate sense, but we ought to look alike from a distance.
1To judge a fruit (a work) of another requires more than a quick fly-by, so to speak. Careful observation takes time. And so, in order to properly discern the type of fruit a man produces requires you be involved in their life for longer than a day. We all fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3.23). Thus, one day might bring some bad fruit on our trees that need repentance. A true believer will do this, but not so for those who offer a false profession of faith. It is the longevity of the tree and the overall fruit that it produces that provides a clearer picture of who we ought to mark as needing avoided.
2One biblical example given to us to help guide us through the quagmire of personal intuitiveness is Paul’s discussion on eating meat or vegetables in Romans 14. All food is declared good to eat, but we are to give some lead way with one another in our preferences of the types of food we will eat.
3Ray Sutton writes, “All racists are the same. They believe their race or even their nation is special because of its ethnic distinction…This inevitably leads to war, because impure races have to be destroyed. They are a threat to the pure race.” That You May Prosper: Dominion by Covenant (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1984), 94, PDF e-book.