So, as stated in previous posts, righteousness is a person, not a standard. Righteousness does not come from getting rid of sin…but replacing sin with obedience. And what does God command us to do? Have faith in His Son. Not just “I believe in You, that You died for my sins” faith, but “I believe Your words and Your example…You have the words that give life, therefore, I will obey those words.”
This truth changes individuals. But this truth also changes groups of people (since groups are just a bunch of individuals), and another word for a group of people is a “society.” And “societies” have “cultures,” just like how “individuals” have “personalities.”
Christlike society vs…
…okay, I tried to come up with a subtitle for this section, and I couldn’t. Religious society? No, James says that “true religion” is a good thing, so I will not continue to give the word “religion” a bad rep. Church society? Well, there are good churches, and there are bad churches. I also believe that while a reaction against church might or might not have been beneficial in the past (Christianity is not a game you play on Sundays, but something, nay, Someone who affects your whole life), teenage and young adult culture would do well to stop neglecting the gathering of believers (Hebrews 10:25). So I don’t want to give the word “church” a bad rep either.
Hmm…let’s go with “Self-fulfilling moralistic society.” That sounds about right.
Christlike society vs. Self-fulfilling moralistic society
…and many of us have gotten a taste of both. For this section, I will do some talking about my own church, where I have felt at home and loved for many, many years. I will talk about some other great churches. I will also do some abstract talking about different experiences I have had and different stories I have heard.
The point of everything I’m about to say, and I’ll say it before and after, is that you really can see and feel a distinct difference between a Christlike culture and a moralistic culture. So here we go.
Just one example: Marriage and divorce
I am going to pull this one as an example of a great many things. Many Christians lament the high divorce rate in our society. Is it lamentable? Yes. But how we as Christians handle it, how we talk about it, is very important.
Let me succinctly say my beliefs here.
A) Divorce sucks.
B) If no one in your church is divorced, you’re doing it wrong.
Let me explain. The divorce rate in America went up to above 50%, but is now steadily declining. Am I complaining? Actually, I am just stating numbers in order to state a fact. If no one in your church is divorced, who are you sharing the gospel with? Just so you know, Christians are running the same statistics as non-Christians: 50% divorce rate. So if no one in your church is divorced, or maybe if 10% of your church is divorced, it probably means that the way your society talks about divorce alienates those who have suffered from it.
I don’t really have a negative example in mind that I have experienced or heard of. Thus, the only pictures in my mind are ones of encouragement. I know that my church does have a lot of people of all ages who have experienced divorce. I believe this is a strength because when people who have suffered from divorce come to our church, they experience comfort from these older people, because Jesus comforted them in their time of need.
When I see this happen, I think of chapter 4 of John. Jesus knows the woman at the well has had 5 husbands. He responds by offering her living water. That is Christlikeness.
Jesus is very straightforward about standing against divorce because God never meant for it to be that way. However, we don’t have any record of Him speaking about how divorce is so common because men are jerks or women nag all the time or anything. He is not insensitive or abrasive in how He handles this topic.
Now, let me back up for a second to apply this to all things.
a) If no one in the youth group is having sex, you’re doing it wrong. We’re missing people who need Christ!
b) If no one in the church struggles with porn, you’re doing it wrong.
c) If every single person dresses modestly, you’re doing it wrong.
d) If every single person votes Republican, you’re doing it wrong.
e) If you never hear any profanity at your church, you’re doing it wrong.
Because all of these things mean that either a) we’re totally missing a certain crowd, or b) we’re alienating them. They come in, but they feel unwelcome, unwanted. Or maybe we tell them that we’re glad they’re here in church, but they feel that we welcome their clean side. They saw us say hi to them and strike up a conversation. They felt that we were genuinely interested in them (because that is what we tried to convey)…until they saw us barely say hi to the woman with the low cut shirt…and then they thought “I wear shirts like that…will they not like me anymore if they knew that?”
My Savior was accused, by Pharisees, of hanging around with drunkards and the worst kind of sinners. Therefore, I think having drunkards and the worst kind of sinners at your church, and having them feel at home, is a mark of Christlikeness. As Matt (our new youth pastor…is he still the new guy at this point?) would say, “You smell like Christ.”
But Carson!!! What about Psalm 1:1?
Ps 1:1 (NIV)
Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
Part of the Hebrew poetic style here is how the Psalmist goes from “walking” to “standing” to “sitting.” Also, one must notice that each phrase is a “genitive” phrase. It does not say “who does not walk with the wicked” or “stand with sinners” or “sit with mockers” but each phrase has an object or path that belongs to these people. We, as Christians, should never walk (quite often, walk is a metaphor for live. Don’t we refer to our faith as “our walk with Christ”?) in the counsel of the wicked. The “way” of sinners falls under the same rule: “Way” was used in the first century the same way we use “walk” today. This same rule applied to the Hebrew language.
Now, it is quite true that we should not submerge ourselves in bad influences. But to use this Scripture to say “stay away from them!” is going too far.
Now, Scripture does actually tell us to stay away from people. We are told not even to share a meal with false teachers, and we told to stay away from idle people who don’t work. But even in that instance, it comes with the reminder not to treat them as an enemy, but warn them as a brother. Observe…
2 Thess 3:11-15 (NASB)
For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. 13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good. 14 And if anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that man and do not associate with him, so that he may be put to shame. 15 And yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
However, I can’t think of any point where we are called to avoid drunkards, foul-mouthed people, druggies, sexually immoral people, or any of the above.
But won’t we get dragged down by them? Although we hate to admit it, don’t the friends a person chooses have a powerful influence on them? Yes. So isn’t it likely that if we hang around those types, then we are likely to become like them? Yes and no. Whether it is likely or not depends on one crucial factor. Which is coming up, two or three blogs from now.