Thursday, March 14, 2013

Fooling the World

One problem we face, as Evangelical Christians, in trying to communicate with the world is that we try to give the impression we have our act together. This often is a product of our political involvement. Then when some high-profile Christian fails or statistics show we do not always practice what we preach, our entire message is undercut. Now I am not saying we can live in a totally hypocritical way and expect people to take our message seriously (Matthew 5:13-16; Titus 2:1; 1 Peter 3:16). But when we make the principal issue our behavior, we set ourselves up, like Peter, for a fall (Matthew 26:31-35; 2 Corinthians 10:12,13; Proverbs 16:18).

Scripture says we are sinners (Romans 3:23; Jeremiah 17:9; Isaiah 64:6) saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Philippians 3:9). The result of this is that God is at work in our life to transform us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:11-14). But this is a process, and we have not yet reached our goal (Philippians 3:12-16; Galatians 5:16,17; 1 John 1:8-10). This puts us in the position of those who are headed in the right direction but have not attained to it yet. We are not allowed to get up on our high horse and tout our own uprightness. Nor are we encouraged to lay aside the standard because we have not achieved it yet.

G. K. Chesterton, in his Father Brown mystery The Secret of Father Brown, puts forth two different approaches to looking at criminal behavior, and by extension, sinfulness. One approach is to look at various types of behavior as something totally alien from yourself, as something you could never do. This often goes with seeing those who do such things as strange, inexplicable creatures you have nothing in common with. It tries to keep people from doing these things by making them look too horrible to consider. It also kills any compassion for those who do such things. Therefore, it allows these things to sneak up on you unawares because you are not on guard to resist them. Further, once you find you are capable of doing such things or find someone who does them to be relatively human, it breaks down all barriers for opposing these behaviors. But the right attitude is to avoid such things, not because you think yourself incapable of them, but because you realize that you, as a sinful human being, are capable of such things and must be on your guard against them. Then you can have compassion for those who do them, because you see the possibility of the same behavior in yourself. And you are not forced to abandon the standard just because you fall short of it. But you will have a different approach when advocating it to others. For it is only when we quit looking down on people and meet them where they are that we can hope to convince them of anything.   

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