I’m a libertarian at heart. Stop making rules, for goodness sake! The more you make the more muddled the whole mess becomes.
I’m not talking about politics.
I’m talking about the OTHER topic…. religion.
Christianity isn’t about rules. It is pure and simple and beautiful. It is this:
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James, the brother of Jesus, gives us a pretty clear-cut idea of what is expected of us, if we are to be in right relationship with God.
1) Control your tongue.
2) Care for those unable to care for themselves.
3) Do not become polluted by the world.
Simple, but by no means easy.
My tongue moves at least twice as fast as my brain most days.
It’s messy and inconvenient to care for the downtrodden. It takes time and resources I would rather use taking care of myself and my family.
Do not become polluted. *sigh* That’s a big one. The original Greek here is aspilos. It means, “without spot, defect or blemish.”
It brings to mind a clean, white shirt. If I spill red sauce on my white shirt it doesn’t ruin the actual integrity of the fabric. The shirt will still protect me from the elements and cover my nakedness. But it appears to be ruined. It is spotted. It is blemished. The appearance of a problem makes the shirt worthless.
Christianity is not a list of rules. In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us it gives us freedom from rules. But… it’s important to live a life that is free from even the appearance of sin.
That’s a hard standard for me to hold myself to, but it makes sense if you think about it. If you call yourself a Christian, people will watch your every move to see what makes you different.
We are called to move through the world as beacons of hope and light and love.
We cannot do that if we are fighting against the world.
You will never argue someone into the Kingdom of God.
You will never harass someone into believing.
Control your tongue. Care for people. Be without blemish.
Paul was a little more wordy (always), but he said the same thing:
“… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law… Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
If you are acting in a way that is hateful toward anyone, stirring up strife with anyone, creating discord among any group with your words or actions, neglecting anyone who is needy (including the needy of spirit, who may be materially wealthy), etc, I suggest you are not living a truly Christian life.
Jesus himself taught this lesson.
(They asked) him this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Don’t misunderstand. I love the traditions of the church!
I think the robes and candles and stained glass windows are gorgeous. The music moves my soul! The worship services restore my weary spirit and inspire me.
But those things are man-made. They serve a good, worthy and important purpose, but they are not the heart of the church.
The heart of the church is love, expressed through service to our fellow man.
It is not the given mission of the followers of Christ to judge the world.
Nor to rule the world.
Not even to save the world.
Only God can do those things.
We are but His (or Her, if you prefer) meager servants.
“But how can I serve someone/something as Vast and Powerful as God?”
Matthew 25:34-40 tells us.
We feed the hungry, clothe the naked, tend to the sick, and visit those in prison.
I implore my fellow Christians to lay down your placards and stop chanting your slogans. Stop yelling from the street corners and trying to argue people into Heaven.
Control your tongue.
Care for those who can’t care for themselves.
Be without blemish.
When we all do that, the world will be powerfully transformed. Not through our efforts or our words or our great powers of logic and reasoning, but by the Love of God flowing through our every action.
It may not be easy, but it’s really quite simple.