Sunday, March 18, 2012

Taking the long view -- really long

Sometimes it's good to step back and take a look at the bigger picture. It's always easy to think of "us vs. them" (especially in an election year). And speaking of the election, there seems to be a bizarre contest among some candidates as to who is the most Christian (as defined by some of the voters). Are you for this, or against that? If you don't do this, you're not really a Christian. If you only do this, you're not Christian enough.

It's nothing new. In the early church the Galatians were the same way. Only those who did certain things, or followed certain rules were considered Real Christians. Paul addressed that in his letter to them. Basically, he makes it clear that it's not what we do that makes us Christian, but what we believe.

And that's an important distinction. If I go to church every Sunday and you don't, am I a better Christian? Well, no. The Bible makes no mention of points for attendance. And if I'm really a follower of Christ, I should know it's not my place to judge you -- just to love you for who you are and be thankful for the gifts you offer (instead of noting the ones you don't).

Paul was talking about Hebraic Law, but I think it applies to all the rules that have grown up around the various denominations. Because they all kind of do the same thing -- get in the way of what's important. And when I let go of that concept and stop evaluating people by my own personal checklist of dos and dont's -- I find we have more in common with them than I thought.

Paul really takes the long view in the last paragraph below. Step far enough away, and major differences become minor. Move further, and they disappear entirely (and no, I'm not going to sing "From a Distance"). If I can refrain from using my naughty-or-nice list, I can almost see that long view, too.

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. 

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
 - Gal. 3:23-29

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