Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. (Romans 12:3)
Is it just me or has anyone else noticed a significant uptick recently when it comes to finger-pointing, blame, and public disapproval of other people?
The USA is a republic based on a 225-year-old Constitution with (to date) 27 amendments; we have three branches of government, over 300 million citizens, and a lot of room for debate; of course we’re going to have differences of opinion, ideological conflicts, and opposing viewpoints; so why so much rancor, condemnation, arrogance, and peremptory judgment?
THE CHURCH: But the United States really isn’t all that complicated when compared to the Christian Church! The Church is a dynamic, organic, multi-faceted, multi-cultural, 2,000-year-old, worldwide organization. The Church has hundreds of legislative bodies, just as many presidents, countless self-appointed dictators with “final authority,” more than two-billion members, and new “supreme courts” that crop up pretty much every time there’s a disagreement.
The writings that comprise the Bible most Christians use today were assembled into “The Canon” around the end of the 4th Century. Martin Luther tried to remove Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation in the 16th Century, but was unsuccessful. Foundational tenets of belief are expressed in scores of “authoritative” creeds, confessions, and catechisms that have been adopted over the centuries. Additionally, thousands upon thousands of published commentaries and interpretations have “explained” the meaning of scripture, “taught” how scripture should be applied, and “corrected” other writings.
More important than anything else – and easy to overlook – The Christian Church is rooted in the person and teachings of Jesus Christ, and was first organized as a means to implement his final directions:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
LAW: I understand, and respect, the commitment people own to get it right, and to live in the way that they believe The Master would have them live. However, the very attempt to codify “Christ-likeness” into specific, measurable, and observable behaviors runs directly counter to one of the foundational concepts proposed by Jesus himself:
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:37-38)
If that’s not enough, codifying Christ-likeness also steamrolls right over the words of Jesus when he pointed out that the entire weight of the burden of anxious rule-keeping could be lifted by the application of love.
“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
Obviously, there’s much more we could discuss when it comes to this subject. But I can’t help but wonder, and laugh at the absurdity, when Christians who love God, live as disciples, accept Jesus, and serve the world in his name, are judged and condemned by other believers, Christians who have evidently sorted through 2,000 years of translation, interpretation, commentary, doctrine, struggle, culture, and real life and found themselves to be the final authority.