There is an interesting conversation emerging in the evangelical world today. The church world wide, but especially in America is going through a massive re-think about what they believe and how they talk about it.
Here is just one of a myriad of examples: http://www.charismamag.com/life/culture/22494-how-the-new-christian-left-is-twisting-the-gospel
First, before I give my thoughts, I want to define terms:
Evangelical - anything that is broadly accepted as right or correct in the MAINSTREAM of the Christian world.
Tolerance - Putting up with another person's view without regard for that person's potential negative impact in the world.
Love - Acting in the best interest of those around me WITHOUT regard for what I get in return.
Affirm - Valuing another person without a necessity to agree with their point of view.
Now that we have this all in place, I want to give a perspective of why I tend to lean into this new conversation with great hope and anticipation for the future on the church.
In short, the church of my parents' generation majored on being "right." And it didn't work.
So, for all those who are beating the truth drum only, I have good news for you. Jesus is truth. He is right. BUT if you don't do what He actually said for you to do the way He said to do it, you are going to lose the voice to teach those things all together.
I read an article years ago by Tony Campolo called Where are all the Liberal Scholars? His simple point was that the church needs the liberal voice. Because without it, we stop thinking. So whomever the Evangelical movement says is okay to listen to, we just buy what they are selling. Whether they buy it or not, whether they are correct or not, whether they align with the agenda of Jesus or not is of absolutely no consequence.
The call of this article was not to agree with the voice of the "liberal" but to value the perspective in conversation so that it helps us with our own doctrinal stands.
The "Theology Police" of the internet have shifted and bifurcated this idea. They want finished truth, resolved journeys and clean understandings of God. The problem is that life doesn't work that way. And the Bible is not written that way. The Bible is written with the goal of tension, not resolution. This is fundamental to the people who wrote the Bible.
This is not a post about the nature of the Scripture. It is a post about how we are avoiding or engaging the present conversation surrounding how to put our God on display to the world. But it does make a few connections to understand that if we look at the Bible as a document that has every point resolved and all truth neatly packaged, we would then try to teach it that way.
But what if God left holes? What if in those holes we are supposed to jump in and see how far down it goes and where else it leads and how that changes how we say what we say?
For the record, God did leave holes. Read Jonah as one of a billion examples. It ends with him on a hill mad at God, and the people of Nineveh repenting. Does Jonah get things together? Do the people of Nineveh fall back? Does God put Jonah in his place? What happens? We don't know. It is unresolved. Just like life. And just like life and the Bible, our theology is not resolved either. And therefore our determination of Christian practice cannot be resolved either - not entirely.
Think of it this way, what part of God do you have TOTALLY figured out? If you answer anything other than "none" I will pray for your pride. We will all admit on the surface that there is more of God to learn concerning every aspect of His character. The problem is that we teach and talk to others as if we have it all figured out. This closed off, dogmatic approach to our discussions about God is not just a "Christian" problem. It is a humility problem.
Maybe we should heed the words of the book we espouse, not just defend our position on it.
1 Peter 3:15 says, "But in your hearts, set apart Christ as holy, always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is within you, YET DO IT WITH GENTLENESS AND RESPECT."
It doesn't say don't have an opinion. And for the record, that is not what the so called "liberal Christian" movement is saying either. you can have an opinion, but share it with gentleness and respect. This would honor Jesus' greatest commandments.
Micah 6:6-8 says,
"With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?"
The question here is, "How can I worship God?"
And God says, "Here is how... Act Justly (mishpat - for you word study people), love mercy, and walk humbly with God."
To walk humbly with God means that you present yourself in a posture that says you don't have it all figured out. You have an opinion, but humility says it could be the wrong one.
At the core of this whole larger conversation is a central question about how Jesus would handle the contemporary cultural issues that we are facing. And that truly is the question for the ages.
Here is what I know. The only people that Jesus ever gets mad at are religious people who believe they have it all figured out. People who marginalize other opinions and bypass actually caring about the people that God deeply cares about in the name of truth.
I think that this conversation that is going on in the church is not the "liberal left" of Christianity distorting the Gospel and trying to get us to compromise. I think it is about people who have made it a life pursuit to live out faith in the world through a community called the church. And the church gets in the way of its own success in the name of being right. And so these revolutionaries are forcing the issue of how the church should actually act - not just believe - so that we can actually see God put on display correctly before we worry about being right.
In other words, being Godly is far more important than being right. And being Godly demands that we give other opinions a voice in the conversation. After all, God listens to you, maybe you should try it as well with others. It does not mean that we tolerate the opinion. It does mean that we affirm the person. And that, at its core is an act of love.
I think that the church in America needs to wake up and realize that we are having a one sided conversation on truth and no one is listening. That doesn't make the truth we espouse wrong. It means we need to measure our approach. Or we will lose our voice altogether.
The Gospel of Jesus is the amazing news that the God and creator of the universe took on a fleshly form because He is determined to set you free from the struggle trying to bring peace into your life on your own. This Good News exists because that God is in your corner. He is pulling for your success. He is for you. And He will do whatever it takes to show you how much He loves you. And that is true for the person with an opinion different than yours as well.
Maybe the call to make disciples isn't so much about getting people to believe like I do. Maybe it is more about putting the God of the Gospel of Jesus Christ on display in the world and watching how people respond.
That Gospel is not a compromise. It is an ongoing conversation. It is fluid and mysterious. But it is not a compromise. It is an invitation to freedom and wholeness. It is a message that forces me to value the people I am talking with, not just the topic I am talking about. It is a message that demands that I wrestle with culture and context to always make sure that I am representing this Gospel well, not just being right.
It is a Gospel that values people the same way that our God does. This Gospel is not a compromise. It is an invitation to a better story. Call me liberal if you need to. But this is the Gospel of the Bible. And I will be part of it.