Thursday, May 27, 2010

Majoring on the Minors

So today's post is going to be a little bit different, folks.  Today we're going to (lightly) delve into a bit of theology.  Yeah.  I'm going there.

I'm a Christian, which many of you already will know if you know me at all, or if you've been reading my blog for more than a week.  I believe that Jesus Christ is God's son, that he came to this planet to show us the Way to live.  The Way doesn't involve intense proselytizing or judgment; it doesn't create an us vs. them mentality.  It is a Way of living that is peaceful, humble, simple, loving, and sacrificing.  I believe that being a follower of Christ means trying your best to put others before yourself; if someone is thirsty, give him something to drink.  If a stranger is naked, give her clothes.  I believe that the Way breaks down barriers such as socioeconomic status, race, gender, age, political affiliation, lifestyle and health problems.  If we are truly living the Way that Jesus lived, no one is an untouchable, a castout, a leper.

This is not an easy way to live.  I have troubles with it daily.  But I do believe that it is the right way to live, and although it may seem difficult, it gets easier and easier the more it is applied, since it is the way we were designed to live.  I believe that way down to our DNA, we are meant to live in community, to help one another, to love one another, and to bear each others burdens.  We are so much stronger when we work together towards a common goal, and the greatest goal should be love.

I will never feel comfortable telling someone whether or not they will go to heaven.  This is a huge breakdown in the church that I see all the time.  I have a dear friend named Kathy who lived with a family in South America for a semester; her "mom" over there once told her that her actual mom, a really lovely woman, was going to hell.  She wanted to know why Kathy didn't CARE enough to try to save her mom from hell.  I believe that is one of the biggest reasons that Kathy no longer claims Christ as Lord.  When we tell people they are going to burn forever in hell, we sabotage one another.  Like I said, this is just my personal belief.  I am not a universalist in the strictest sense, but I do believe that God is more forgiving than any of us can fathom; He is the one who will save us, not ourselves.  I have no idea how He works in other's hearts and minds; I can only say how He works in my heart, and my mind.  I do not believe that those who have not heard the name of Jesus Christ, those who have not had a chance to live and see the blessings of the Way, those whose hearts have been hardened towards Christ because of their upbringing, their lifestyle, their choices, are going to hell.

Like I said, this is my personal belief.

I DO believe that Christ is the EASIEST way to live.  When people follow the Way, when they practice peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, they find that it is easier to live in harmony with other people.  Unfortunately, these same people who claim peace can be the same people that cause disharmony among those who do not follow the Way, and amongst themselves.

Self-control, for example.  To me self-control means taking care of my body, and being aware that other's rights begin where mine end.  My idea of self-control means that I will try to exercise and take care of my body; I will eat fast food only a few times out of the year out of necessity.  I will be cautious with the amount of alcohol I drink so I do not make myself sick or feel hungover the next day.  I will not gorge on sweets, but enjoy a variety of the foods that God has given me.

I believe that self-control means that I do not give myself over to all of my carnal wishes.  Bryan and I were still virgins when we married.  Sex, to me, was meant to bind a man and a women, so they become "one flesh."  From what I understand of the Bible, this is to be shared in a marriage relationship.  I will say that I danced far too close to that line in my dating life.  I am thankful that I was able to practice some self-control throughout my dating life, so I could become one with my husband after we were married.

Unfortunately, the idea of self-control can cause disharmony as well.  Many Christians do not drink, and look down on those that do.  Many Christians believe those who smoke are sinful; I just think it's kind of gross.  Many Christians not only look down on those that choose to have sex before marriage, but judge them.  I have been one of those Christians who judge my fellow followers of the Way because of their sexual choices.  While I still believe that sex before marriage is not a part of the Way, it is not at all okay how I have handled it in the past.  Judgment is not for me to delve out.  While I have repented of my judgmental ways, I still feel the sting of my judgment, and the disharmony it brought into my life and into those who I have loved, and judged.

Over and over again I see the disharmony in the Way.  Political differences create lines in the carpet that we cannot cross.  You stay on that side, I'll stay on this side, don't touch me.  Race is brought up, although subtly, so as not to convey racism outright.  Gender differences are preached over and over again... women "cannot speak in front of men", even though in Galations we see that "There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female.  For you are all one in Christ Jesus."

Just since I've been here in Jackson, I've had other women, followers of the Way, tell me that I am wrong for believing that a woman's voice should be heard in church.  I have been told that I am wrong for believing in a Divinely-created evolution.  I have been asked, "Aren't you sad that so-and-so is going to Hell?  How do you deal with that?"

For me, this is "majoring on the minors."  If I believe in Evolution and you believe in a Literal Six-Day Creation, how is that really going to effect our lives in the long run?  Aren't we both called to love our neighbors?  Are we both called to live peace?

If I believe that drinking alcohol is permitted in the Bible, but you don't, so you don't drink it, how will it help either of us to argue about it?

If one person believes only men should speak in church, and goes to a church that practices this belief, and if I believe women should speak in church, and go to a church that practices this belief, can we not still get along as fellow followers of the Way?

This is not to say that all differences should just be glossed over.  When someone believes something that is obviously AGAINST the way, and is not only practicing it but preaching it, they should be approached for this inerrant belief.  For instance, those who believe that people with darker skin are darker because way back when, someone sinned, and they were cursed... well that's just stupid, and it's racist, and it causes hatred and disharmony.  But most of the time our differences are trivial, and should be treated as such.

Don't major on the minors.  Live in Peace with each other.  Live in Love.  Live in Harmony.  Live with such joy that others will look and wonder, "what's different?"  Be open to new ideas, to new things; consider the positive or negative effect it will have on your life, and go from there.

Romans 12: 9-21
"Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.  Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.  Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.  When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.  Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
   “I will take revenge;
      I will pay them back,”
      says the Lord.
   “If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
      If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
   In doing this, you will heap
      burning coals of shame on their heads.”
 21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good."

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