Friday, November 04, 2016

A Thought for Friday, 4 November 2016

“We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor.  For Christ did not please Himself; but, as it is written, ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on Me’.”  Romans 15:1-3 NRSV

Many have heard it said – and have said it themselves – that the United States is a “Christian nation founded on Christian principles”.  A consensus of polls puts the Christian population in the US at about 70%.  So how can it be that a “Christian nation founded on Christian principles” standing at 70% of the population is so darn mean-spirited, hateful, and spiteful??  Republican or Democrat.  Catholic or Protestant.  Jew or Gentile.  Conservative or Liberal.  It makes me wonder exactly what we mean when we say “Christian principles”.

We hear a great deal about “tolerance”, but I doubt many on either side of the argument really understand what the word itself means.  The Latin root of the word means “endurance” (, which is to say we “tolerate” something as a matter of acknowledging its reality.  It does not in any way mean we express support or agreement.  St. Paul challenged his Roman audience, comprised of Jewish and Gentile Christians, to “acknowledge” the reality of disagreement without being disagreeable.  Based on what is written in the previous chapter regarding kosher regulations, Paul says, “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God” (Romans 14:20). 

Even though Paul mentioned food specifically, we are compelled to consider the broader context throughout the letter which stipulates that whatever we choose to do which may cause distress or grief (or temptation!) for those who do not share our beliefs, we should refrain from that practice – at least while they’re present.  At the very least.  That they do not agree does not necessarily make our own practices wrong in themselves; but when our practices or beliefs are forced upon others only for the sake of trying to prove ourselves right and with no regard for their own “weakness”, we are wrong - not necessarily in the belief but certainly in the practice of that belief.  The practice in question causes distress, we know it may cause distress, but we do it anyway by claiming our “rights” while failing to understand the “Christian principle” of building up – rather than trying to tear down – one another.

Right or wrong, “each of us will be accountable to God” (Romans 14:12).  And it seems most likely that we who try to claim “Christian principles”, regardless of which side of the political aisle we choose to stand, had better try and more fully understand exactly what “Christian principles” are and how they are best expressed.  That guy Jesus might be a good place to start in trying to better understand “Christian principles”; you know, the One who “did not please Himself”

Yes, some things are as wrong today as they were thousands of years ago, and some things are still as right today as they were when Jesus walked the earth.  It just is that the “principles” in which Jesus abided are not so popular today – even among the 70% who claims some sort of affiliation to Him.

There is no need to worry about how others choose to live and to act.  Even if we are afraid of the examples “they” may be setting for our children, we need not live in fear if Christ is present in our hearts, in our homes, in the churches in which we worship, and in the work we do.  Trying to live as a true disciple fully devoted to Christ is hard enough without trying to force others to also live.  For “those who humble themselves will be exalted”.  So says the One upon whom our insults fall.

Let there be peace,


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