I have a confession to make: I’ve been cranky on Facebook. Yes, it’s true. I am occasionally vociferous and curt with some of my really smart and adorable FB friends. Perhaps I’m growing tired of the 47%-of-Big-Bird nonsense. It is true that years ago a friend and colleague told me that I “didn’t suffer fools gladly.” She has since un-friended me; I guess she didn’t like it when she became one of the fools I didn’t suffer, but I suspect she was right.
In this most contentious election year one of the attitudes that I find the most off-putting and the most likely to stir up my ire is the allegation that Christians, since we’re supposed to be charitable, should vote liberal. Evidently we’re not fulfilling our obligations as believers if we have concerns about the national debt or the property rights of those who make more money than we do. The implication is that you have to be a quasi-Marxist to be a good Christian.
Really? Well, some defining is in order here. What’s a Christian? That’s a tough one, not because it’s hard to define, but because many non-Christian ideas use that term in spite of their non-biblical origins. Anyone can hop on the Christian bandwagon and everyone pretty much has -- every major religion claims Christ as either a teacher, a prophet, or a leader. Only biblical Christianity sees Jesus as the literal Son of God and Savior of mankind.
Christianity, in its purely biblical sense, is merely (if I can borrow C.S. Lewis’ phrase) the certitude that:
o Jesus Christ is who He said He was – the Son of God,
o did what He set out to do – to die paying the penalty for all the sins of mankind (1st John 2:2)
o and that, three day later, He rose from the dead.
This certitude does tend to produce an attitude of obedience and deference to Christ, and the more a person knows about who He is and what He did for us, the more dedicated he becomes to making Christ’s sacrifice pay off. Most people can’t face the dreadfulness of the crucifixion without realizing some level of gratitude for His willingness, for our benefit, to die so horribly (The word “excruciating” comes from “crucifixion.”). That’s what Christianity is – believing, relying on, appreciating Christ’s work. Period. Everything else is window-dressing.
Christianity is not doing “good” – whatever that means. Christians do good things – obviously charitable, kind, caring things. That is a natural outgrowth of our thankfulness for God’s grace. But doing “good” is not the way to become a Christian for several reasons –
§ What appears to be “good” may be evil. How often have we seen unintended consequences occur as the result of some well-intended but short-sighted program? “Our righteousnesses are as filthy rags before the Lord.” Isaiah 64:6 (In the original Hebrew “filthy rags” were really “menstrual rags.”)
§ No human being has the authority to declare what counts as “good.” Which is better – caring for your children or caring for the poor? Giving money or giving time?
§ The Bible makes it very clear that we can’t work our way into God’s good favor. (Ephesians 2: 8 & 9 )“For by grace we are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Christianity is not using the government to force “charity.” Nowhere in the New Testament is a populace told to do that. Generosity is not generosity when coerced by the force of law. The early church lived communally, but they did so voluntarily and, during terrible persecution, because they had to.
Christianity is not enabling people to be less than they can be. God created each soul with a purpose, and all the being “nice” in world is not worth ruining anyone’s chances of reaching his God-given potential. Paul gave these instructions to the believers in Thessalonica,“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” (2nd Thessalonians 3:10)
Nor is it walking away from God’s clear commandments in order to make everyone feel included. God’s commandments have our best interests behind them – going against them is arrogance, not Christianity. Check out the last half of Romans 1.
And Christianity is not just one of many ways to get to God and heaven.
· Christianity is not one of the Four Noble Truths. Christ made this claim,“I am the way the truth and the life; no one comes unto the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Christianity is a personal, joyous relationship with God, not a gradual process of going numb. Not even if a person lives a million lives (which he won’t – “It is appointed unto man but once to die.”Hebrews 9:27) lives, he will never reach God, or Nirvana, on his own.
· Christians worship Jesus Christ, the God-Man, a real, living human being, an historical figure, well-documented by history, both biblical and secular. We did not make up a fairytale religion full of fantastical beings that behave like spoiled children.
· God Almighty, His Son, and the Holy Spirit are not the same as Allah. In fact, Islam and Christianity are polar opposites. The fact that the Koran drops the names of biblical people (inaccurately) does not mean the ideas are at all alike. Christians should be horrified as they watch their liberal friends and neighbors fall for the lie that we are all “people of the book.” Which book?
· Christianity is not an offshoot of Judaism; it is the continuation of Judaism, its natural conclusion. In its original, pre-Abrahamic form Judaism is proto-Christian; Christ had not yet come so the faithful believed in the future Messiah, but reconciliation with God was the same. “Abraham believed and it was credited to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)
· Christianity is not social justice. There is no such thing a biblical liberation theology. Where the genuine Christian faith prevails, real social justice does well and it is true that the Christian is to be concerned about the welfare of his fellowman, even to the point of political activity. It was Christians who started the first orphanages, the first hospitals. It was Christians, like William Wilberforce, who fought the slave trade, Christians like Corrie ten Boom who fought the Nazis. Christians were the first scientific pioneers. It was Christians who formulated the foundations of this, the most prosperous of all nations. But none of these things were accomplished by coercing anyone. Social justice, as defined by our current culture is a product of government. That it has insinuated itself into unsuspecting or misguided churches does not make it a Christian movement; it is communist, statist, and anti-freedom.
Christianity is the greatest proponent of freedom and prosperity in world. Christianity recognizes and celebrates human free will and possibilities inherent in each individual. It rejoices in the miracle that God, in His sovereignty, elected to allow us a share of that volition. We get to choose. No human government has the right to counter that and Christians have died by the millions to protect this amazing gift. The purpose of the whole world rests on the freedom of human beings to choose for or against the God who made them.
Christianity is not of this world. Christianity improves this world, but this cosmos belongs to Satan and has since Adam and Eve were dethroned. Efforts made to supplant God’s will with human attempts to pretty up the devil’s world only cause problems.
Warning to my Facebook friends: stop telling me what it means to be a Christian. It makes me cranky.