Called to Be Different…From One Another.

This is our first post on our new schedule. I wanted to start from the beginning with an explanation of what I think of as HfG’s main philosophies. The first, which I’ll be exploring today, is that we’re called to be Christians differently. The second idea we’ll look at next week is that anything can be worship.

I guess this is my first official warning that there is some theoretical theology ahead, and that it might make you a little uncomfortable. Before you jump to the comments and call me a heretic, I’d ask that you allow the thought to run its course. If by the end you still feel I’m wrong, feel free to tell me so.

In Romans, Paul discusses the strong and the weak. At the time, Christians were still entrenched in a culture that worshiped several other gods. After a Christian converted, they were still friends with people that weren’t. Disagreements began brewing when the new Christians ate with their old friends. It was common practice to sacrifice an animal to one’s god, then have friends over and eat the meat. The Church grew divided over whether or not Christians were allowed to eat meat that was offered to the non-Christian God. Paul addresses this in Romans 14. The entire chapter (I think) is highly liberating. You can read it for yourself, here.

What I get out of this chapter is this… There are a lot of things the Bible doesn’t mention. The book is meant to offer a set of guidelines on how to live a life that’s pleasing to God; it’s not a textbook to find exact answers. Because of this, there are a LOT of gray areas in life the Bible never condemns nor condones. If that’s the case, how are we supposed to navigate this realm of moral ambiguity?

With our conscience. An obvious answer, but one we’ve seemingly missed the boat on. It seems there are a lot of Christians who are terribly uncomfortable making their own judgment call. Instead, they’ll take scriptures out of context, employ bad hermaneutics, and twist anything they can to convince themselves the Bible is on their side. This isn’t a malicious action. We just want to be safe. If we believe we’re living exactly as the Bible tells us, then surely we must be doing something right. The fact is… The Bible just doesn’t have much to say on certain topics.

Paul seemed okay with this in Romans 14. He actually instructs the Christians to listen to what their heart tells them. If it says eating meat sacrificed to idols is wrong, don’t. If you don’t feel it’s a problem, go for it. But, neither side should judge or condemn the other for doing what they feel is right. Why? Because both are obeying the convictions God has laid on their heart.

And now we get to the crux of the matter. We have it instilled in us that there is a set list of rules, and every one of us must obey those rules the exact same way. The Gospel becomes a sweeping edict; a litmus test to judge the holy and the damned. I believe this is not what God was going for. Here’s the thing: God calls us (Christians) to live by varying standards from person to person. I know, that statement smells like moral relativism and makes you nervous. Me too. But it is so liberating.

Here’s a real life example: I want to make movies. Write them, direct them, whatever. It’s what I feel God has placed me on this Earth to do. As part of that, I watch movies. A lot of movies. Movies that a lot of Christians would avoid. Why? Because I’ve discovered something kind of neat… Part of the makeup of who I am and how I work, is that I have a resilient spiritual shell that allows me to watch questionable movies without it affecting me as deeply as some others. Some might call that the Holy Spirit. The bottom line, is I can watch these movies and enjoy them, then go to sleep knowing I will not be haunted by things that might distress others. For some, watching these movies would be a violation of their conscience and doing so would be a sin for that person. Would I ever force someone to watch these movies with me? Certainly not. Would I call them a pansy if the didn’t? Not at all. But, I would also expect them to not call me a heathen for watching.

As stated above, this is an inherently dangerous theology. This is why I believe this idea is suitable only for mature Chirstians… By the time we’ve become mature, our conscience should be in line with God’s desires. If a new Christian were to try to live this out, it could be bad news because they haven’t developed an understanding of who it is they’ve been called to be in Christ.

God obviously embraces diversity. He’s called all of us to different jobs, different tasks, different ways of life. Why wouldn’t he call us to different ways of walking out our faith?

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4 responses to “Called to Be Different…From One Another.

  1. I’m just curious…is being able to watch “questionable” movies “without being affected” a sign of a spiritual shell, or is it a sign of a seared conscience? And why would God tell us to “listen to what our hearts tell us” when in Jeremiah 17:9 it clearly says “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” I think we have scripture to guide us when our hearts to lead us astray. Food for thought.

    • Hi Anon! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I stand by what I said… I believe that God does allow us to make our own judgment calls based on what strikes us to be good or bad. If we are chasing after God, hopefully we’re also chasing after a better understanding of what constitutes “good” and “bad”. Regarding the verse you mentioned, I do have a few thoughts…

      First off, the full context of what Jeremiah is talking about is the sinfulness of the tribe of Judah. In verses five and six, God pipes up and starts saying that men who put their faith in themselves are in trouble (v. 5-6). He then says that men who put their faith in God are much better off (v. 7-8). Then come’s verse nine, Jeremiah’s own commentary. This is immediately followed by verse 10: ““I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind,to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” Basically, he’s saying that he will look into all of our hearts to determine if we are trying to live for him or ourselves. If our hearts are inherently wicked, why bother searching?

      It gets even more provocative if you look at the original Hebrew in verse 9. The word that we get “deceitful” from, is “achov”. This is the same word used in Genesis for Jacob’s original name. It means “heel grabber”, or “over-reacher”. A better english term for it might be “overly ambitious”. In the version of the verse you used above, the “beyond cure” portion is based on the Hebrew word “Anosh”. Its common use throughout the old testament is used when someone isvery ill. Essentially, it’s saying that the heart is “life threatening”. So, all of that would lead me to believe that a better understanding of the verse is that the heart wants what it wants, regardless of whether or not it is helpful. Who can understand it? To me, I believe this reasserts the view mentioned in Romans14:14. “I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.”

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