Wednesday, April 8, 2015

You Can't Be a Christian. Period.

Scrolling through my Facebook feed today, I encountered a post commented on by one of my friends:

"You Cannot be a Republican and a Christian."  You can Google the post if you like.  I'm not desirous to send any traffic that way.

Mirrors what I've seen from those who also say, "You Cannot be a Democrat and a Christian."  Seen that one before too.

The argument from both sides essentially boils down to this: (Insert party name here) does not follow the teachings of Jesus by what they try to accomplish, therefore, you cannot consider yourself a Christian if you vote for or call yourself a (insert party name here.)

Each side has its laundry list of dos and don'ts which prove the respective position.  One side usually harps on individual morality and sexual sins.  The other side focuses on corporate sins and the sin of greed. 

I have to wonder if folks actually read their Bibles.  I have to wonder if people actually take the teachings of Jesus seriously.  For I am quite certain that if they did understand what Jesus teaches and how He outlines the expectations of what it means to be His disciples, then they would understand: if being a Christian means that we must completely follow Jesus' teachings and accomplish how He tells us to live, then no one can be a Christian.  No one.  If following the teachings of Jesus is the measuring stick for Christian identity, then you can't be a Christian.  Period.

Some may think I am blasphemous.  Some may think they do a reasonable job of following Jesus.  I don't think so.  Unless you are comfortable doing exegetical gymnastics to explain away what Jesus literally said, then there is no possible way you can follow His teachings.  None.

Evidence?

Try this one on for size.  Should weed out the pool really, really quick.  In Luke chapter 14, Jesus teaches three criteria for discipleship.  He blatantly says, "If you don't do these things, then you can't become my disciple."  What are those things? 

1. Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.  Luke 14:26

2. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.  Luke 14:27

3. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.  Luke 14:33.

Is anyone left with a leg to stand on?

Is there anyone who hates family?  Spouse?  Children?  Life itself? 
Is there anyone who takes up the cross these days?
Is there anyone who gives up all possessions and lives with nothing?

Spare me your woeful attempts to soften this teaching by saying, "Jesus meant that we are to love Him more than our family or our possessions.  We can still love our family and have our possessions."

Nice try.  Seriously.  Nice try.

But you are interpreting Jesus' words to mean that, and that meaning is not found in the context of what Jesus is saying.  Neither is it implied in the Greek--or the English for that matter.

If you love your family.  If you love your children.  If you are not taking up the cross.  If you have possessions, then you cannot be a Christian!  Period.

So what gives you the right to say, "You can't be a Christian and be Republican" or "You can't be a Christian and be a Democrat"?  You have absolutely no leg to stand on if you are not following the criteria Jesus Himself set forth for discipleship.  You have absolutely no justification for speaking unless you yourself have accomplished what Jesus says "in the red letters." 

Do you see why finger pointing is meaningless?  Do you see why Christianity is not about following Jesus' teachings?

If it were, none of us could even begin to consider ourselves disciples.  None of us could ever begin to consider ourselves right in the eyes of God.  Anyone who took Jesus' teachings seriously as presented in the Biblical witness would say, "I give up.  I can't do this.  It's impossible."

And it is.  For us.

But the good news is that the Bible isn't primarily about us.  It's not primarily about our actions.  The trajectory of the Biblical account leads us squarely to Jesus.

Who hated family and would not be subject to them and their wishes.  (Luke 8)
Who carried the cross.
Who had no possessions.
Who lived the life we should live.
Who died the death we deserved (since we couldn't live the life we should).
Who placed His righteousness upon us so that we could be His disciples; not because we could follow His teachings, but because He loved us.

When we as Christians begin to draw lines and say, "You can't be a Christian if...," then we have lost the key concept of what makes Christianity different from all the other world's religions.  All the other world religions say, "Do this, and you will be accepted."  Christianity says, "You are accepted, now do this."

All the other world religions proclaim that you are saved, justified, and accepted based upon your actions.  Christianity says you are saved, justified, and accepted because of the actions of Jesus who is God come to earth.  The theological catch phrase is, we are justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Faith in that statement means trust.  It is not simply an intellectual assent.  It is something down deep within one's very soul which says, "I trust in the saving actions of Jesus and not in my own self.  I trust in His work and not my own.  For on my own, I could never fulfill what He commands."

Not the labors of my hands
Can fulfill thy law's demands
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and thou alone.

Were it not for Jesus' actions, no one could be a Christian.  But because of Him you can indeed be a Democrat and a Christian; a Republican and a Christian; a sinner and a Christian; a homosexual and a Christian; a heterosexual and a Christian; a man and a Christian; a woman and a Christian.

For as many of you as are baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. For there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.  (Galatians 3:27-28.)

Your actions do not save you.  Jesus' actions do.  Your actions do not make you a Christian.  Jesus' does. 

Leave it up to Jesus.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Amen and Amen!
I Guess I must not now, nor can I ever be a Christian, I feel so lonely now.... oh well Maybe the Buddhists will have me... :-)

Oh dear.


Carl