Something bugged me in a Christian song I was listening to on my way to a friend’s place tonight. The artist is an awesome artist and has produced many uplifting and inspiring songs, but on one little verse, one little line, I became a little frustrated. Truth was the main theme of the song and in it, the artist associated himself with the ones who have the truth and then sung about what the others believed in and how wrong it was. One word stood out among the rest: “they.”
In describing the opposing view to his own view, this artist drew a line in the sand and basically said it’s us vs. them. Why does this bug me? Because he described “their” thoughts and beliefs as the wrong ones to follow, even making their thoughts seem sinful and hated by God. Instead of associating himself with the sinner, with the one who believed in a different way or at least thought in a different way, he sided with the majority of Christians and mocked any opposing view. This bugs me because Christ Himself could have done the same to us, but He didn’t. Why should we think that we’re any better than Him?
There is unspeakable power behind the gesture of associating with the lowly, sticking up for the marginalized, standing up for justice though the world may be against you. This is one reason why law school is so attractive to me; it might enable me to do just that. This is also why I loved the move Amazing Grace and have admired the work of William Wilberforce because he went out of his way to stand alone against the rest of the British government because of what he believed in. He saw the slave trade as a despicable and disgusting operation and chose to stand not with his fellow rich whites in clean clothes, but with the slaves themselves. And I must ask, what has happened to that? As Christians are we called to judge the “heretical” or “liberal” thinkers or associate with them?
Truth be told, I would probably be defined as a heretic in most religious-Christian camps. For starters, I don’t believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. I think there are many errors in the Bible, though I still regard it as God’s word. Secondly, I don’t find certain major and controversial discussions about things like salvation or the Trinity or Christology are as black and white as many of our popular pastors say they are. Given these few facts, many would associate me with the “liberals” and therefore probably make the assumption that I’m a heretic. Why am I heretic, because I believe in something counter to what Jesus told me to believe? No; I’m a heretic because I don’t agree with the rest of the group. But neither did Wilberforce; neither did Martin Luther; and neither did Jesus.
Aside from my scholastic studies, I’ve been working through a textbook by Bart Ehrman about the New Testament. Before each chapter can be read, the appropriate book of the New Testament has to be read (i.e. I should read Mark’s gospel before reading the chapter breaking down the gospel). I’ve reached the chapter on Luke and have been carefully reading through Luke’s gospel. An interesting verse stood out to me tonight and it is a very popular one that I’d imagine most would recognize.
“And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:30-32
Jesus did not care to go to the Pharisees and other religious elite to try to teach them His ways because they would first had to admit that they are sinners, something they simply could not do. Instead, He went to the ones who were willing to admit that they were wrong, they were sick, they were defiled with sin and wanted to be healed, renewed, and taught the right way. Oftentimes, these were the marginalized in Jesus’ day. It seems to be a more common thing amongst today’s time to marginalize the thinkers who don’t quite agree with what we believe. The Emergent Church has taken much heat for the “ridiculous” and “heretical” ideas it’s postulated. And though there are many areas I disagree with in regards to the Emergent Church, I find no good reason to draw the line in the sand and say, “You’re wrong and I’m right; either you line up to my beliefs or you’re a heretic.”
What I’m merely trying to highlight here is our common tendency (as Christians, yes, but mostly as humans in general) to associate ourselves with the winners, with the stronger, or with the “healthy.” This isn’t always the case, but most often in sports, when a team wins, fans say, “We won.” But when that same team loses the very next game, fans say, “They lost.” It’s a human condition to join the winning side. Why? Because we don’t want to lose; we don’t want to be wrong.
I’m not saying we should all just join the Emergent Church and agree with everything they say; what I am saying is that we shouldn’t be quick to draw the line in the sand. Every theologian (either liberal or conservative) has this in common: the sun shines on them both. They’re both human as we are all humans. Why should we treat ourselves as though we are more righteous than those who disagree with us because they disagree with us? It seems antithetical to the Christian message to take something that preaches and exalts humility as one of the greatest characteristics a man or woman could have and arrogantly flaunt it around and use it to exalt ourselves. As Christians we have the tendency to say we’re right because we have the Truth (Jesus). But that Truth tells us we’re to become like children, we’re to associate with the sinners, the lowly, the marginalized. In fact, Paul clearly says in Romans 12:16; “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly,” (ESV).
Ultimately it comes down whether or not we want to be truly humble physically, spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. It’s one of the hardest things to do because our human nature compels us to go in the opposite direction; it compels us to sin. But if we really want to live for the Kingdom of God and obey Jesus’ commandments, I think it is absolutely necessary to set aside our own laws and our commandments and submit to His. It isn’t hard to do, to talk to someone humbly about theology and what you believe. In fact I’ve had more interesting conversations with non-Christians than I have with Christians about theology or spirituality or truth because unlike most of the Christians I’ve talked to, the discussions I’ve had with my non-Christian friends were discussions and not arguments about who’s right and who’s wrong. This goes back to what I wrote about in another blog, one about first admitting how wrong we are before we claim we’re right; Jesus demands that we live by a different standard altogether. And humility is at its focal point. Maybe it’s time to actually surrender.