The Problems With Christians

Hey there, people.

Yeah, you read the title right. The problems with Christians. That’s what I’m going to try to talk about and hopefully make some sense as I go along. If you feel offended. .well, try taking what I said to heart, maybe? Or yell at me in the comments. That works too. Anyways, let’s get started.

So how many of you have heard the song “We Are One In The Spirit?” A part of it says, “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Yeah. By our love. What love? How often are we as Christian divided over petty reasons? How often are we not accepting of the other? Why must there be division, and not unity? Why must there be hate, and not love?

In 1 John 4, John writes to a house church and tells them the following: “Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love…If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us.”

So now you go, “Yeah, sure, I get it. I love everyone, but…” No. No buts. If we love, it’s unconditional love, like God’s love for us. We love everyone no matter what. That’s perfect love.

Now you’re probably asking, “But wait. What if I don’t agree with them? What if they’re heretics? Then what?!” First, let’s stop here for a second. Just because someone doesn’t agree with your or vice versa in no way means that you can’t get along with them. In fact, that shouldn’t be a constant point of conflict in your relationship. If someone is an existentialist, does that mean he’s a heretic and hell-bound? What if he’s Anglican? Catholic? Guess what—it’s not up to us to decide who’s going to hell or who isn’t. It’s up to God. We can go, “But what they believe is wrong and heresy, therefore they’re unsaved!” but that’s not what we’re supposed to do. In Romans 14, Paul says, “But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God….Do you have a conviction? Keep it to yourself before God. The man who does not condemn himself by what he approves is blessed.” As you can see, just because we have a conviction/opinion gives us no right to judge people because they believe something else. Honestly, life is too short for us to quibble over petty matters. Is it truly worth it?

You probably are going, “What about all those clearly bonkers? The ones that preach nothing but garbage? Aren’t we allowed to rain fire and brimstone on them?” Answer: No. You’re not. See, no matter how screwed-up someone’s theology might be, no matter how watered down a teaching is, there’s one thing we must remember: Christ is being preached. Paul talked about it in Philippians 1, when he said, “What does it matter? Just that in every way, whether out of false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed.” That is what is important.

All right, let’s change gears a little bit, shall we? I want to talk a little bit about another problem we as Christians often face. How often have we said the phrase “I’ll pray about it”? It’s something of a catch-phrase, isn’t it? When we really don’t feel like doing anything about something someone told us, it’s so easy to say that we’ll just pray about it. But how often is there more that we could do? If someone tells us that he’s having a big exam coming up, don’t just say “I’ll pray for you” when there’s more you can do—offer your assistance! Praying is just one part, doing is another. Anyone can talk, but not everyone will do.

The whole praying thing can be taken even further when it affects what we do in greater ways. Let’s take for example homeless people. How often do we see homeless people on the streets and turn the other way? How often do we try to pretend that they don’t really exist, and work overtime to snuff out our conscience? We come up with excuses: “Oh, I don’t want to give them money because they’ll use it on drugs.” “I couldn’t stop because it looked too dangerous.” But what’s to stop us from making a sandwich for a homeless widow and giving it to them along with a tract? They’re human beings, just like us. And if we don’t love them, who will? It’s not just enough to pray—we have to do. In James 1, it says that “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”

There’s so much more I could say on the subject, and I probably will at some point, but for now, I just want to end with one thought: If we’re brothers and sisters in Christ, why don’t we act that way? Why don’t we live that way? We get so caught up in the talking, that we forget the *doing*. Many Christians spend their time figuring out exactly what denomination they are, then spending all their time deciding exactly what they believe and why that is the only truth possible, and assessing who are the saved and unsaved, so that they know who knows the truth; those who do not are often labeled as heretics, because they don’t believe what the others do. What if we spent less time nit-picking on the “irreconcilable differences”, and more on fulfilling the greatest commandment: loving our neighbor as ourselves? We ask why God does nothing when we hear of tragedies around the world, but we forget what He did do: He made us. And until we start doing, there won’t be a difference. It’s up to us. That’s right. Us.

Less than three,
Josh

 

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16 thoughts on “The Problems With Christians

  1. To anyone reading that, how amazing is he at writing things like that?! His missionary background and just his maturity and intelligence makes him so great at that. He has a couple things like that in his book and it’s really great. He is a writer!!!!

  2. So we’re the difference-makers, not God? 😉

    I know some of this is directed at me, so I’ll just say this: I don’t get my theology from my denomination; I don’t get it from what I personally think. I get it from the Bible. The Bible makes quite clear the way of salvation, the nature of God, etc. When people deviate from non-negotiables like that, yes, I’m going to abstain from viewing them as my brothers or sisters. I’m not going to willy-nilly accept everything that people say they believe. We are called to “not be swayed by every wind of doctrine.” I’m standing firm on the solid foundation of the Word of God. I can do nothing else. If that makes me intolerant and closed-minded, too bad.

    I will take what you said about love to heart. So often we hear the mantra “Speak the truth in love!” But then people just use that as an excuse to rip someone apart. I may be guilty of that myself, so this is something I need to work on. But Martin Luther made a very wise statement, “Peace, if possible, but truth at any rate.” Truth will prevail in what I say. Whether or not your perception of my method is loving, I assure you that I will always strive to speak the truth; and I will work harder on doing it in love.

    So…. I half agree with you, half don’t. Paul drew lines when he combatted heresy and called out false teachers by name. I will continue to follow his example and do the same. I know that will offend people–even you. But I’m not called to never offend anyone. Quite the opposite, actually. The gospel will offend. Standing for exclusivity and truth will offend. Jesus offends. So if I offend, I am willing to examine my motives, but I hope that all I am doing is representing my Lord.

    That’s my two cents. I know it doesn’t mean much. Hence the title “two cents.” But I will implore you the same way you implored your readers: take what I said to heart. Neither of us can go wrong examining ourselves and seeing how what we believe stands up against the Scriptures.

    I think I now have the honor of being the first to write a really long comment on your blog. 😛 Hopefully it didn’t annoy you too much. Keep being a great writer, even if I might disagree with you. 😉

  3. Hmm…interesting. Both you and Christian have written some thought-provoking stuff.

    Matthew 7:1-5 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

    Hebrews 4:11-13 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

    1 Corinthians 10:31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

  4. FYI – Josh, I’m finding that, while I’m reading your post, there is a balloon sorta scrolls up the page, right through where I’m reading. Maybe you could move it to the side of the post?……Just letting you know.

    ~IrishTiger

  5. “You probably are going, “What about all those clearly bonkers? The ones that preach nothing but garbage? Aren’t we allowed to rain fire and brimstone on them?” Answer: No. You’re not. See, no matter how screwed-up someone’s theology might be, no matter how watered down a teaching is, there’s one thing we must remember: Christ is being preached. Paul talked about it in Philippians 1, when he said, “What does it matter? Just that in every way, whether out of false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed.” That is what is important.”

    ^^ That paragraph really bothers me. I forgot to mention that. You’re taking that verse out of context. The preachers Paul was talking about were preaching Christ. They were really preaching the true gospel. The problem with them was, their motives were wrong. They did it to get tons of converts or to get money.

    The problem with many modern preachers is, they don’t preach Christ! They don’t preach the gospel! They not only preach for material gain, but they preach material gain! They twist the gospel and the Scriptures to say that God always wants to bless us with money and prosperity. They should be callled out because they are deceiving millions. This verse obviously does not apply in this situation, so I don’t think it was right for you to use it that way.

  6. I have a very grave problem with Christian’s assertion that his position is not denominational or personal, but rather that it is strictly biblical. If anybody said that in a serious hermeneutical department, it would probably take a while for them to respond because they would need a moment to catch their breath after a long bout of uproarious laughter. The problem is that we never interpret a text in a vacuum. Martin Heidegger’s existential hermeneutics demonstrated that we always interpret from within a lifeworld that is embedded and decidedly non-neutral.

    The problem is that the biblical literature is a two thousand year old anthology of Jewish sacred writings. Nothing is straightforward. This is precisely why the Roman Catholic church insists upon expert opinion on matters of faith and counteracts the idea that faith should solely be a matter of private interpretation. The biblical literature is deeply embedded within a cultural, a history and a context, and therefore evangelicals are foolish to believe that anybody can grasp the basics of the biblical literature.

    An issue as basic as Christ’s Atonement is even such a highly contested site of theology. I adhere to ransom theory/Christus Victor and detest penal substitution. I believe the idea that Jesus died to balance the scales of justice and appease the Wrath of God in some sort of legal transaction to be a modernist invention of Christendom; particularly created by the post-Luther reformers, who warped and twisted Christian theology to make it fit more in line with the individualist-legalism of the modern times.

    And this is why I insist that any interpretation of the biblical literature has to be a genealogy of thought. We have to understand the historical development of theology in order to understand Christianity. If we do not have an historico-contextual analysis we commit the sin of presentism. So what we do is take the spirit of the modern era and project them back onto the biblical literature, and distort the message to a great extent.

    This is why I think the idea: “I don’t get my theology from my denomination; I don’t get it from what I personally think. I get it from the Bible” is a form of idolatry. It is an approach which pretends to glorify God but ends up glorifying the Self. It is idolatry because the individual believes s/he does not have to go outside his/herself in order to find some semblance of the truth. The individual remains stuck in his/her own embedded lifeworld and then elevates that position as the source of all truth, thereby worshiping his/her own ego.

    And this is why we need to remain humble. Almost every biblical passage is open to multiple interpretations. The biblical literature is like an intricate web, whereby our chosen interpretation of one passage could radically change how read other passages. Therefore, we must embrace the polysemy of meaning within the biblical literature and acknowledge the flux.

    “The very first thing you need to give up in order to understand the wisdom of the Judeo-Christian tradition is the idea that there is a single answer. The first thing that you have to give up is the idea that you can pin it down. Rather you have to realize that this is a journey, that this is about wrestling, that this is about fighting, that this is about engaging with a two-thousand year-old conversation. And it’s not about reducing it to some single answer. The first thing we have to give up is the pursuit of a singular answer.” — Peter Rollins

  7. Just to quickly reply, since I don’t have much time, I’m sorry if I gave the impression that this is all from my own mind. That’s not the case at all. If it were left up to me, I would be quite lost trying to interpret Scripture. But thankfully, I have the Holy Spirit of God inside of me, which He has given to me to aid me in understanding His Word. And I have the witness of thousands that have gone before me and developed an understanding of the text, to which I have chosen to adhere.

    I believe the position I gave to be the most honest interpretation of Scripture. It does have historical context, so I’m not coming up with it all by myself. And I don’t ignore what other people’s opinions are.

  8. Okay, I have time for a longer reply now.

    I have no problem with the Roman Catholic view of an “expert opinion” leading the way, because I often adhere to that principle myself. I can’t trust the conclusions that I myself draw from Scripture; I have to weigh them against the conclusions of both those who have studied historical theology and those who have spent their lives studying the Bible as a whole. I am not at all opposed to historical theology or studying the cultural context and history behind each passage.

    I do disagree, however, that Christianity is embodied in the consummation of millenia of historical development and thought. The Christian religion was just as complete two thousand years ago as it is today, because it had the full revelation of God–the only standard for faith and practice. Obviously, as a Roman Catholic, you would disagree with me about the authority of tradition and historical progressive thought, so we probably won’t get anywhere on that point.

    I also disagree that every passage is open to multiple interpretations. It is possible that a passage may have multiple applications, but a passage generally only has one interpretation. Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.” You can’t make an argument that that is somehow unclear or open to interpretation. Jesus is making an exclusive statement: that He is the only way to God. I don’t think it’s arrogant to say that; it’s merely honest. If someone said to you, “The only way to reach outer space is by exiting the Earth’s atmosphere,” you wouldn’t argue with an individual who interpreted his statement has exclusive and straightforward way, because that’s obviously how it is meant to be understood.

    Yes, there are many passages of Scripture that are difficult to understand. But they still only have one correct interpretation. Since both God and the human author had one purpose in mind when they wrote the text, there is therefore only one accurate way to understand the text. There may be many *legitimate* interpretations of a difficult passage, but there is only one absolutely true one.

    I do agree with this sentiment though: “The biblical literature is like an intricate web, whereby our chosen interpretation of one passage could radically change how read other passages.” But that by no means supports your proposition that the Bible cannot have a single interpretation. It just means that that single interpretation is going to be very complicated–and it is. That’s why we can be sure that when we study the words of Scripture, we are studying the Word of an eternal, omniscient God. If it were easy to understand, we would lose that evidence.

    • To Christian:

      Yet, I also assert that I have the Holy Spirit inside of me, and I could equally say that I know the true interpretation of scripture because of that. This becomes a nonsensical argument, because it is essentially the same as saying, “I am right because I said so.” There are thousands of divergent Christian beliefs, which all assert to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Sure you have the witness of thousands who have gone before you, but so do I in the Roman Catholic tradition and Eastern Orthodox tradition. Divergent traditions interpret the biblical literature differently and we all claim to be its faithful apostles, so I do not think there is anything of substance in your argument. It is childish, “I’m right, you’re wrong” nonsense.

      In regards to the completion of revelation, I would say that in a certain sense the Christian religion was complete in Christ. Yet, this completion existed before the writing of the New Testament. For the first hundred years of Christendom (at least) there was no coherent New Testament text, so the idolatry of the Bible as it exists today did not exist for the Christian faith to be complete. Local parishes might have a single gospel text at best, or something. Christian faith was not as tied to the New Testament text as it is today. So for me, the New Testament is merely a more concrete form of the living tradition of Christianity.

      I am not going to reply to your belief in a singular interpretation, because you provide no argument for it. You simply assert it as your belief, and give me no reason to believe you in the slightest. There is nothing I can do with that. However, I want to comment on the passage: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.” I think you are interpreting it wrongly. Even if there are multiple interpretations, I do not think an exclusivist position works when you view the gospels holistically. It is complicated, but essentially, there are two points: (1) My interpretation of the New Testament is that justification/sanctification are two sides of the process of salvation. Salvation as I understand it is the process of becoming perfect, holy and innocent—theosis or becoming One with God; (2) Christ for me is the incarnation of the Divine Logos which is the ultimate reality or animating force of existence, or the being of goodness. Since Christ is a divine animating force, I do not believe goodness can ever be separate from God. Anybody, whatever their cognitive beliefs, participates in the grace of God when s/he does good. In other words, I do not believe you have to mentally acknowledge Jesus for the presence of Christ/Holy Spirit to be animating your life. That is the message of the parable of the Good Samaritan, in my honest opinion. The two most moving parables for me in the Gospels are that and when Jesus gives his Judgment of Nations speech in Matthew 25. The focus is always on participating on goodness. The Good Samaritan parable does not end with saying: but the Good Samaritan is still going to burn in hell because he is a Christian.

      The above is a thin account, which does not do full-justice to the Roman Catholic tradition, but it is a different way to approach the biblical literature. This is what I mean by multiple interpretations though. Once you have a different understanding of Justification/Sanctification, it inevitably changes the whole way one reads the biblical literature. And I cannot prove the Roman Catholic interpretation is definitively true, just as you cannot prove it is definitively wrong. You can say the Spirit led you to your interpretation, but I can claim the same thing, and we are back at the impasse of multiple interpretations.

  9. Well, you guys, Christian and John, are going over my head, but I have a question. What is “the incarnation of the Divine Logos”?

    ~IrishTiger

  10. I’ll make an Anglican out of you yet, Joshy 😛

    In all seriousness, though, I enjoyed this post very much.

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