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I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

You Can't "Be" a Christian by "Doing"

The works righteousness is getting a bit out-of-hand. You can't "do" yourself into being a Christian. you just can't. You can't help enough people, give enough food, be compassionate enough, there is nothing you can do to be a Christian.

Now, what people usually tell me is that "What I do is more important to my faith than what I believe." No it isn't. Just a simple test: do you give away all your money? If the answer is no clearly you don't do Christianity very well. And if you try, but fail, well, then who really cares?

If you say "Jesus cares if I try," then note that you believe Jesus doesn't judge you on what you "do" but rather on what you "try" which is another word for "believe." You just told me what you believe isn't as important as what you do, but then you say that Jesus judges you on what you believe rather than what you actually do, especially when you fail. I'm confused.

I think this is the biggest problem with people--well-intentioned as they may be--who believe that what you do is more important to Jesus than what you believe. As if somehow doing the stuff Jesus did is more valuable to Jesus than believing in God as the creator of all reality and living as if it is so. (I am not denying there is a relationship between what we believe and what we do because we believe something; nor, am I suggesting what what we do has nothing to do with what we believe--but I am saying that you cannot throw believing under the bus because you "believe" the things you do are more valuable because you do them.)

Some guy wrote an article I read recently where he claimed he didn't want to be judged on what he believed, but rather on what he was doing a a father, spouse, and Roman Catholic who was at a Jewish seder meal his wife was conducting. That is fine for Jesus. Jesus can judge him as a father, spouse, Roman Catholic married to a Jewish rabbi at a seder meal...but what are we supposed to do with that? I mean, I'm not Jesus, so why is he there? What is he "doing" there?

Is he Jewish because he does "Jewish" things? Or, is he a Roman Catholic Christian playing at being a Jew? I know he wanted to be judged a a father and spouse, but why go to a seder meal, even if your wife is presiding? Is the only way to be a supportive spouse in this instance to show up at the meal and let Jesus sort out the questions of integrity and honesty? The problem with judging peoples' faith in what they do is that there are often more options than what they have done.

For example, imagine a young woman, recently married, whose new husband is abusive? Should she be judged by Jesus that she is squandering her talents by trying to stay married to this imperfect guy? How should we judge her? Is she a victim? A Co-dependent? How many beatings does she have to endure before her belief can be activated that she is better than this (even if there is nothing she has done to prove this), and she can get out of the relationship? Being judged only on what you "do" is often only reserved for those fortunate enough to ignore suffering.

There is no doubt that we can cry "Peace,peace when there is no peace." Our beliefs cannot save us from actions that destroy God's world. But actions alone may not be enough either. Because whether we "believe' or whether we "do" our salvation is a gift from God regardless of what we believe and do. Now, there may be things God prefers over others...but why should one list over another be preferred by us?

This is the argument all the Christian leaders and writers and bloggers must be making if they want to convince anyone that Christianity has a place in the future of the world. What benefits comes from living and being free from the bondage to death? How is the world better if love generates our future, not hatred and fear? Unless you can explain what difference Jesus makes in your life, what's the point of saying Jesus makes a difference in your life? (and that's usually belief, not doing...sorry.)

I don't mind if Roman Catholics go to seder meals, (I've been to a few myself), but it does seem to me that if going to one doesn't make you a better Roman Catholic (or whatever faith you have), you probably missed the point of the meal.

May your tables be full, and you conversations be true.

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