Monday, April 10, 2006

Partiality, Sanctification, and Feeling Blue Like Jazz

On Sunday mornings, I am preaching through the letter of James. This week, our text was as follows:

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. SO speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:8-13)

As we know, God is not a biased judge. He does not care about our ethnic backgrounds, our beauty, our poverty, or our country of origin. Further, I believe that Christ's command to us in John 13:34-35 expands upon what James quoted. Indeed, I believe that "loving one another" as Christ has loved us is the ultimate example of neighbor love. And lest we forget, Jesus loved us "while we were yet sinners" (Romans 5:8).

This brings me to something that has been in my mind since I read Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz. I reviewed it here somewhere, and if you can find it you'll know more about what I said than I do. I have mostly forgotten. However, I do remember that overall, I mostly enjoyed the book. Hopefully, that doesn't mean that I lose all my street cred as a snooty, Reformed guy. Be that as it may, I enjoyed the book.

There were parts of that book that I didn't like. I try to be careful with the things that I say, all potty posts aside. Sometimes, I felt that Miller pushed the envelope. But that's fairly small compared to the thing that really bugged me about the book. The thing that has stuck with me for months now is that Donald Miller would probably like everyone but me because I am a mean fundamentalist.

While I agree that we should extend the common love and courtesy due to all men as image bearers, habitual sin irks me. It doesn't anger me so bad in people who do not claim to be Christians. I expect that. But when people who claim to be Christians seem to be pushing the envelope in the name of "Christian Freedom," I get antsy very fast.

It reminds me of a Seinfeld episode. Jerry had a dentist who was a Roman Catholic and an amateur comedian. The RC dentist converts to Judaism and starts telling "Jewish" jokes to Jerry. Jerry is jealous, it seems, that the dentist is now able to tell both Catholic and Jewish jokes because the dentist has become "one of them." So, Jerry goes and complains to the priest. Jerry says, "Hey, this dentist is converted to Judaism just so he can tell jokes." The priest says with concern, "This offends you as a Jew?" Jerry exclaims, "No! It offends me as a comedian!"

I get the same feeling when I am around Christians who love to assert their freedom to do certain things because they are "free in Christ." Unfortunately, I lack the discernment that Jerry had. I can't figure out if I am offended as a teetotaler, a Baptist, or a Christian, or simply because I am an idiot. But the bottom line is, I do not like tatoos, pierced ears in men, and most rated "R" movies. While I'm being totally honest, I'll admit that I do not like most movies and most television.

So, does this make me a colossal jerk, a legalist, and unsanctified? Perhaps it does. I feel like clarifying, so I will. I actually do not mind tatoos and piercings of various kinds on Christians who did that sort of thing while they were living apart from Christ. It doesn't even phase me. The actual thing that bothers me is when people who say that they are Christians insist that they can do such things even if it offends the sensibilities of every member of the Church. All this in the name of freedom.

It is the same thing that irks me about anyone who pushes the envelope; they have just enough space and "freedom" to keep themselves from real rebuke. They are masters of knowing where the line is, tip toeing up to it, then backing off. And folks like me, whose duty it is to know where that line is drawn, have to be constantly irritated by such behavior. It is fantastic fun for the line walker, but none for me.


Daniel said...

No one who is obedient to the Spirit of God holds hands with sin over the fence.

You are describing the error of Balaam - the seed that falls amongst the weeds.

Even So... said...

Well, my comment got lost, but here we go again.

They may have assent, but they don't have fidelity, and as far as I can tell, they don't have a saving faith.

Some people try and justify being like the culture by saying that it allows them to identify with those whom they are witnessing to. But we are suppposed to be identifying with JESUS, not them!

Instead of justifying themselves, they need to just-deny themselves.

We shouldn't try and show that Christianity is "cool". Yes, you can have a tattoo and go to heaven, but you don't need to get a tattoo to show others the way to heaven.

"Christian coolness" is not evangelical relevance, it may be cultural relevance, but it is worldliness, not Christian maturity. More often than not, those who would emphasize their Christian liberty are just exercising their old man.

I believe firmly that Philippians 3:18-19, and 1 Corinthians 5 deal with this situation decisively. Those who refuse to take their old man to the Cross, while still claiming Christ, are enemies of King Jesus.

This masquerade is why I begin and end my posts with

Even So (Come, Lord jesus)

Even So... said...

It sure is embarrassing to see that rant followed by my unfortunate slip (lower case "j" for the Master) ...

Oh, well, after losing the post the first time through, and trimming it down, I didn't proofread it again. I still need a little patience, of course.

Lord Jesus, forgive me...

Even So...

Jim said...

First of all Brad, the envelope pushing you describe here is not freedom but a dangerous slippery slope into the slavery Paul referred to in Romans 6. Paul warned us to not become entangled in another yoke of slavery which was simply caving into the desires and lusts of the flesh.

While masquerading in their supposed freedom these misguided believers are really ensnaring themselves more and more with the ultimate result of consequences they did not want.

As the Bible says, "Be not deceived, God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows that he will also reap." Their freedom will catch up with them eventually.

Let us however not place a cloak of legalism over our true freedom in Christ and extend the hand of latitude to every brother as much as possible.

As Proverbs warns us, "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life".

Mike Perrigoue said...

I can't believe you watch Seinfeld! Hee hee hee...kidding.

I hear you, Brad. Christian freedom is more times than not used to justify things that don't square with Scripture. What exactly does it mean to "flee the evil desires of youth"? How 'bout Philippians 4:8, Colossians 3:5-10 and Ephesians 5:1-21? I'm dumbstruck how Christians (myself) included justify some of the things we entertain ourselves with. Movies, TV, music...will we be held responsible for partaking in this stuff? Can this stuff really be enjoyed without tainting us in some way? How can we enjoy the things which Jesus died for!?

"Oh, that's okay...I've got Christian freedom. The bad stuff doesn't affect me."

Well, it may not affect you but it certainly had an affect on the One who paid the price. I can't help but wonder if we'd still tune in to primetime TV or the latest Hollywood blockbuster if we could feel but one strike with a cat-of-nine-tails or the punturing of our skin with thorns...or the piercing of our hands with iron nails.

Our blood doesn't it makes it easy to sin freely. Plain and simple.

chigbee said...

I may have to disagree with some of the comments on your entry. I agree with your blog to some extent though. I do think Christians have a responsibility to act a certain way. I do; however, think that our actions need to be motivated by wanting to better our relationship with God and others...not so much so we can measure how good we are. I think that's as slippery a slope as tip toeing around sin.

This quote sums it up for me:

Some people try and justify being like the culture by saying that it allows them to identify with those whom they are witnessing to. But we are suppposed to be identifying with JESUS, not them!

NOT THEM...uhm wow what a bad choice of wording. I think it was them that Jesus spent a lot of His time with. I think it was them that He died for. I think He only got mad at the pretentious.

So do I advocate getting trashed on a Friday to better reach the world. Nope...but I will have a beer with someone and show off my tattoo and explain my Lord with someone who doesn't know God.

I think that slippery slope works both ways. One who uses grace as an excuse is just as bad as one who looks down on those who need grace the most. Both represent an act of immaturity.