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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Believing in the Bible in a non-Christian Culture (or Save the Trees and Kill the Children)

I am a Christian. That word seems to have a rather broad definition in today’s culture. And it means different things to different people, certainly including self-proclaimed Christians themselves. By saying “I am a Christian,” I mean that I believe we are all sinners and only by believing in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and as the payment for our debt can we be saved. All else pales before this truth. The three verses beginning with John 3:16 sum it up:

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

So, as a Christian, I read the Bible and I try to live my life by the words contained on the pages. It is my self-help book. I don’t understand it all, but I don’t say “Well, a loving God would not send people to Hell forever, so there must be a ‘Get out of Hell free’ card at some point.” That’s not what the Bible says. Hell is real and hell is eternal.

And the Bible tells us that we are only saved by faith alone, so I don’t believe we ‘work our way’ into Heaven. That’s not what Jesus said (though works are an important part of choosing God). I try to understand and accept what the words actually are, not what I want them to be or what I’d like them to mean so my life will be easier. I struggle (why doesn’t Paul simply admonish slavery in his Letters?); and I try to live up to the message, though I consistently fail in my daily walk. But I keep trying.

I have Christian friends, non-Christian friends and friends who created their own religion. I have heterosexual friends and homosexual friends. The point being that whatever social relationships I have or societal beliefs I encounter daily, I believe, first and foremost, what the Bible tells me. Thus, I choose to live my life not by what modern culture says is okay, but by what the Bible tells me is right. And I won’t change that, regardless of whether or not society agrees with me or says it’s ‘not nice’ or ‘not politically correct.’ I do believe in the phrase, “hate the sin, not the sinner.” The two can, nay, must, be distinguished from each other.

If you’re still reading, you may wonder what prompted all this. It was the news story about President Obama’s announcement that he (a self-professed Christian) supports same sex marriage. I went back to something I read in Bible Study just a month or two ago. It’s all right there, on the page, in Romans 1:18-32.

Many don’t believe these words. But I’m among the many that do. And I believe that what Paul is saying will apply to everyone, believers or not.

God’s Wrath Against Sinful Humanity
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Some people ask “Why would you want to believe all this stuff? It’s depressing.”

We live in a “Me” society. We believe that we are the center of our personal universe and that we control our destinies. Reality television, Facebook, blogs (kinda ironic that you’re reading a blog post; possibly via Facebook); we want the focus to be on us. This generation’s catch phrase should be “Look at me!”

A fundamental part of being a Christian is accepting that it’s not all about us; that there is something greater than us. It is humbling to admit: have no doubt of that. It is convicting to the very core of your being. But if you do accept that basic premise, the Gospel is exactly what that word means: Good News.

This messed up world isn’t all that there is. There is something more, and if you believe, it’s a joyous future. Our wearying lives and inevitable deaths are just temporary: there is an eternal reward. If you are a Christian, you believe in Hope. But it is the Hope of certainty, not just wishful thinking. So, Christianity isn’t depressing at all: it’s Glorious.

The post's parenthetical title is a lyric from While You Were Sleeping, by Casting Crowns

1 comment:

  1. I agree and rejoice with all you said with exception of the phrase "non gay and gay". I have never considered myself "non-gay." Heterosexual and homosexual, straight and non-straight, normal and ,well you get the idea. I just think the phrase non-gay was a poor choice. Keep up the good work, God bless you, an go Steelers.
    Rob in North Carolina