Stephen King stirred me with his tweet about the odd behavior of some evangelical Christians — an almost schizophrenic behavior. Supposedly evangelicals believe God is love and know Jesus warned not to prevent children from coming to Him. Jesus said something akin to “better to put a giant grinding stone around your neck and fling yourself into the sea than to keep one of these kids from getting close to Me.” Yet, some evangelical ( or fundamentalist or conservative Christians ) are up in arms to keep destitute, desperate South American children from crossing our borders.
Well, you might argue, that doesn’t keep these kids from coming to Christ. Really? Are you sure about that?
So, let’s look at another story Jesus told.
Remember the poor man who was fell upon by robbers along a road and left for dead? Remember the supposedly decent human beings who walked right by him, not offering to help him in the least? Sounds a bit like these schizophrenic evangelical Christians who — as Paul laments — see themselves in the mirror, turn away and forget what they are supposed to look like.
Now I include myself among evangelical Christians though I am not willing to align myself with those who call themselves “conservative.” Conservative is almost a dirty word. Conservative can sometimes mean — in my mind and in the minds of many many liberal thinking persons — “narrow-minded”, “hateful”, “violent”, “racist”, “wicked” — well I could go on but then I’d be too “conservative” for my taste.
GOD is LOVE.
He doesn’t ask us to judge. He doesn’t ask us to enforce His Laws — oops. Actually the one Law God asks us to enforce is the one that says “Love others as yourself.”
If we love others, then how can we turn our backs on these children? We can’t, not if we are truly Christian.
36 For of him, and by him, and in him be all things. To him be glory into worlds [of worlds]. Amen.
12 Therefore, brethren, I beseech you by the mercy of God, that ye give your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, and your service reasonable.
In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul highlights that everything is summed up in the head, which is Jesus Christ. Here in his letter to the church at Rome, he also emphasizes the glorious truth that all things are for, by and in Him, who is the Son of God.
If this is true ( and of course, it is ) then we ought first to recognize that Jesus deserves glory. Second, we ought to realize that it is only God’s mercy that allows us to be “living sacrifices, holy, pleasing to God.”
You hear it often in congregations of Christians: “To God be all the glory.” Yet, in the next moment, these same Christians are proclaiming how they did this or that for the Lord as if He needs anything at all from us.
Our service to God ought to be “reasonable.” Our service ought to emerge from our understanding of our complete dependence upon His Holy Spirit who dwells within us. Without His indwelling, there is nothing – in our lowly bodies – we can do for God; nothing at all. Therefore, the statement “To God be the glory” should be matter-of-fact, part of our very nature.
“For of Him, and by Him, and in Him be all things,” writes Paul.
And do ye all things without grumblings and doubtings; [Forsooth do ye all things without grutchings and doubtings;] that ye be without plaint, and simple as the sons of God, without reproof, in the middle of a depraved nation [in the middle of a shrewd nation] and a wayward; among which ye shine as givers of light in the world [among whom ye shine as givers of light in the world;]. And hold ye together the word of life to my glory in the day of Christ; for I have not run in vain, neither I have travailed in vain. [holding together the word of life to my glory in the day of Christ; for I have not run in vain, neither in vain travailed.]Philippians 2:14-16WYC
What are the enemies of a simple, reproof-free Christian life? Grumblings (or grutchings) and doubtings, if you read Paul. I imagine Paul bemoans the critical soul who wrings his hands and shakes his head at the world as it rushes by in its waywardness and depravity. I see Paul weeping over the Ebenezer Scrooges of the Christian world who bah-humbug their way through the Christian life. Paul does not wish to run his own race in vain. He desires the Christians he leads to “shine as givers of light in the world.” He wishes Christians to “hold…together the Word of Life” to his “glory in the day of Christ.”
Paul doesn’t say, “Do some things without grumblings and doubtings.” Rather he says to do all things with joy and faith which come of knowing the Lord. Then, and only then, will we shine as givers of light to the world.
Real love, genuine agape love is unconditional, period. If you doubt this truth, re-read Paul in his first letter to the church at Corinth. He boldly tells the church – a church battling crippling sins – that “love is kind” and “keeps no record of wrongs.”
And in his first letter, John writes:
And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.
John doesn’t write, “The one who remains in God remains in love.” Rather, he turns it on its heels and states emphatically that “the one who remains in love remains in God.” You cannot hate people who you are able to see and touch while you claim to love God. You can not refuse to forgive others while expecting God to forgive you. Frankly love and hate are like oil and water – incompatible in the mix.
You can not be a Christian and hate people.
Today, writing from prison, I think Paul might be emphatic. He might scribble ( ‘see, I write these words in my own hand’ ): “Stop fighting!” before he explains why Christians should not bicker. Paul does write gently here; and a bit later in his letter to the church at Ephesus, he begs his fellow believers to “speak the truth in love.” But, here he implores them (“I urge you”) to “accept one another in love.”
4 Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love,3 diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.
Paul calls Christians to humility, gentleness, patience, acceptance ( tolerance! ) all of which lead to unity and “the peace that binds us.”
So how do Christians who disagree stop fighting? What is “speaking the truth in love?”
Examples (from a written social network debate) of “truth speaking”:
Person #1: “Heretic warning” then boldly typed N-A-M-E of heretic. Then, “BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.”
Person #2: “Beware that the good presentation you give is not clouded by pride.”
Which spoken truth do you think Paul prefers? And, more importantly, which statement sounds more like God, the Holy Spirit?