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?