Monday, March 12, 2012

Love of God and Love of Neighbor

This interesting snippit arrived via fellow friends on Facebook

Beck: Bait and switch afflicts contemporary Christian society

First thing's first: I don't disagree that some within the Christian faith look very much like they have subsituted "working on their relationship with God" for "becoming a decent human being."  That's almost a no-brainer.  In fact, a song I loved to listen to in the early 2000 by dc Talk called "What if I Stumble?" started with the same sentiments. 

Did you catch the opening line?

"The greatest single cause of athiesm in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle.  That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."

Such a critique of Christianity has been around for more than a few years, so what Beck offers us in this article is nothing new.  Yet, he also proposes an answer which is rather head scratching for Christian Orthodoxy.

From the article:

I truly want people to spend time working on their relationship with God. I just want them to do it by taking the time to care about the person standing right in front of them.

To this I reply: good luck.  It simply will not happen for the starting point is all wrong.  Without a relationship with God, one's selfish desire will trump being a decent human being every time.  Without a relationship with Jesus Christ, one's treatment of another, as Nietzche said, is all about having power over that other person.

To truly love one's neighbor, one must love God first.  And, in order to love God, one must have experienced His grace, His mercy, and His love.  One cannot give that which one has not received.

Beck would probably say at this point, "Perhaps you are right, but how does that account for such nasty treatment of others by folks who claim to be Christian, who claim to work on their relationship with God by going to church, who claim to pray, etc.?"

It is a legitimate question.  One that potentially gives folks fits if not for a couple of truths:

1. A Christian does not ever claim to fully overcome one's sinful nature and desire.  These things are still at play within us.  As Martin Luther would say, "We are both saint and sinner at the same time."  A Christian who does not care for neighbor as in the examples Beck uses, will be judged accordingly.

2. C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity: If Christianity is true then it ought to follow (a) That any Christian will be nicer than the same person would be if he were not a Christian.  (b) That any man who becomes a Christian will be nicer than he was before. (Kindle edition location 2611)

What Beck may fail to recognize is that those who have abhorrent behavior at the eating establishments toward their waitstaff might have even worse behavior if they weren't Christian.  Are they living up to the standards of Christ?  No.  There is no disputing that, but show me one person who actually does.

It is the belief of Christianity that as one's relationship with the Triune God deepens, then does love of neighbor, not vice versa.  It is the belief of Christianity that as one's relationship with the Triune God deepens, one's eyes are opened to see Christ in one's neighbor, not vice versa.

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