Saturday, October 8, 2011

Modern Pharisee

It is an insult to the conservative that he or she cannot fix themselves and an insult to the liberal that he or she cannot fix humanity. This is why many conservatives reject Jesus in every sphere except religious ceremony and why liberals reject an interventionalist God in all spheres. 

The conservative – I pulled myself up by my bootstraps model- believes he or she is responsible for his or her ultimate destiny and achievements.  I did it my way, so why can’t everyone else?  This can be used to justify a reluctance to help others, as that is not my responsibility but theirs. This ignores the fact that factors such as the family (or lack thereof) we are born into, the place in which we are born, and (even though it is not politically correct to say so these days) the varying levels of skill or talent with which each of us are born, can greatly influence our “progress” in the world.  

Conversely, the liberal worldview presents itself as altruistic and concerned with fairness and the well being of others.  The liberal fondly cherishes the notion that as a group we can redeem humanity from the various ills and squalors in which it is embroiled.  It aims to create equality through redistributing resources.  Those better off should contribute to those less fortunate.  It’s hard to argue against this proposition.  However, in my experience, most people think there are others more fortunate than them who should foot the bill.  I’ve never met anyone who likes to pay taxes – liberal or conservative.   So, the idea is not for me to sacrifice my resources to help those at the bottom, but to take the resources of others to do so.  Again, I am not responsible for the plight of those less fortunate.  It can make you feel good without paying a personal cost.

Certainly, there are conservatives and liberals who give generously to others, but still there is an essential truth those both of these ideologies can be used as convenient excuses not to help others while maintaining the illusion that were are still at base good people who do the right thing. 

Paul states in his letter to the Romans that humankind was not interested in the true God and finding out what God was truly like but instead attempted to mold God in ways that suited them. (1)   Today, we are still creating our own version of God.  For many Christians belief in God is not primary.  Our beliefs about politics and money are more deeply felt and from them we construct our idea of God.  This is true whether you call yourself a liberal or a conservative.

The liberal likes to see Jesus as the social liberator speaking truth to power shaking up the earthly status quo.  But this is the same Jesus that told His followers to give to Caesar what belonged to Caesar. (2)

The conservative who values self-reliance and austerity would likely look on in horror as Jesus let a woman use a bottle of perfume that cost a year’s wages to wash his feet. (3)

Modern Pharisees

If we use Christianity to support the political system that we favor, how are we different from the Pharisees that Jesus found so despicable?
We spend so much time and energy judging non-Christians because they don’t obey God’s word.  But isn’t that what non-Christians do?  Paul wrote:
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. (4)
Even more damaging to God’s central goal, the salvation of as many people as possible, is the attempt by Christians to force our beliefs on to nonbelievers using the force of the government be it using legislative or judicial means.  God’s message to humankind is not to be shoved down the throats of others.  

We live in times when many horrible things are done and many of these things are not recognized as the crimes that they are.  But, that was also true in the time of Peter and Paul.  They did what God had commanded them.  They preached the gospel.  They did not try to obtain political power so they could make everyone a Christian.  Why do we do this today?  

Christianity is about the obedience of the heart.  Outwardly forcing someone to observe what we believe to be Christian standards.  Do we want to make a perfect Christian paradise where everyone, whether they have made the decision to be a Christian or not, acts the way we want them to?  But Christ commanded us to change people around us by our presence or witness in the world, not to mold the world to suit ourselves. (5)

Have we grown tired of trying to reach those around us?  Do we, as Christians, want to escape from the world and just associate with good Christians?  It sometimes seems like we are attempting to create a world where non-Christians are forced to act outwardly as Christians by legislating this result.  Is this because we think that outward expressions that appear Christian are enough?  But the Bible is quite clear that outward actions without inward change is nothing. (6)

1. Romans 1:18-23.
2. Matthew 22:15-22.
3. Luke 7:36-50.
4. 1 Corinthians 5:12-13
5. Matthew 5:13-16.
6. 1 Samuel 16:7.

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