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20 February 2008

A Valid Question?

Sometimes I'll write something and wish I'd said it differently, either because of poor wording or a lack of stating something that needs to be said. It's because of this (and obviously some underlying psychological issues since I've read "Jane's" blog) that I have a number of uncompleted posts that may or may not eventually see the light of day. I get the feeling I'm leaving too much unsaid here, but I am taking the plunge:

In my post "Christian" and "Christ-follower" the other day, I believe I ruffled feathers here and there. I expected that I might. In the first comment, Preston asked the question, "Why has the term 'Christian' become so negative?" This line of thinking, which I presented in the post, is the primary cause of the ruffling.

I have learned that when we can't come to a satisfactory answer to a question, often it is because the question is not presented in a manner we believe is valid. I say this for the sake of clarity, although I believe Preston's question is valid, but many people do not exactly agree. So that we can meet somewhere in the middle, I'll rephrase the question so that we can examine it together:

Why has any negativity become associated with the word "Christian"?

Of course there are the Crusades, the Inquisition(s), and wars fought in the name of God -- major terrible historical events. There are high-profile religious leaders who have been caught with their pants down, both literally and figuratively. There are televangelists. These are some big ones, and surely there are more, but from here the trickle-down begins to get nearer to us "normal" Christians: lies, hypocrisy, perceived hate, intolerance/judgmentalism...

"But wait!" you say, "I think that our adherence to a set of moral standards has been interpreted by non-believers as judgmentalism!" (Or something like that, anyhow.) To some extent I agree, and I'll bet that this is the major objection to the premise of my earlier question.

Is it our Godly lifestyle that is interpreted incorrectly, or is it how we present ourselves to others? Since reading one particular book, I've loved the example of the Queen of Sheba visiting Solomon and giving honor and accolades to God because of what she saw in Solomon's court -- the way it looked, the way Solomons servants handled themselves, etc.

"I didn’t believe what was said until I arrived here and saw it with my own eyes. In fact, I had not heard the half of it! Your wisdom and prosperity are far beyond what I was told... Praise the Lord your God, who delights in you and has placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king so you can rule with justice and righteousness." (1 Kings 10:7, 9, NLT)

My follow-up question to the first might be something like this:

What can we do to repair the negativity that has been attached to the word "Christian," if anything?

In seeking to resolve this second question, I must seek God daily in examining my own life to see if I'm living the way I claim to live. If I can't get beyond that then I'm an active ingredient in making the first question valid.


Tony M said...

I think this comment may hit on the core of it: "to see if I'm living the way I claim to live."

I want to write more, but I have to leave for a meeting at work, unfortunately. I'll check in again tonight, after church.

Christy said...

Well, Dean, I think that Christians will always be looked down upon unless it's other Christians looking. Jesus said that the world will hate us because it hates Him (John 15:17-19), so why should we expect anything different? The bottom line is that we are to live to please Christ. We don't need to worry about pleasing others BECAUSE if we ARE pleasing Christ, HE will work out the details. Being Christ-minded is crucial. We are what we think. If we think like Christ, then our lives will reflect that. However, as I mentioned, the majority of the people (the world) will still hate us and call us names (including the word "Christian" with a negative, hissing like tone as if it's a bad word). That will not stop me from calling myself a Christian. I am a follower of Christ by name (first by physical birth, "Christine" and then by spiritual rebirth! I thought that was neat - you might not) and I strive to fulfill that name.

Another point I would like to attempt to make is that we shouldn't be bothered by the 'guilt by association' thing. I mean there are plenty of women who do stupid, irriational, hateful things - but I still call myself a woman (I can't deny that fact!). There are millions of Caucasians who act erroneously but I still mark "Caucasian" on legal papers (again - can't deny that one). And finally (as I mentioned to you in private but you shared without naming me, but now everybody knows), Americans are ridiculed and looked down upon on a daily basis, but I STILL call myself an American. "Woman", "Caucasian" I can't deny; "Christian", "American" - I WON'T DENY! Now play "God Bless America" and show Christian flag and American flag waving in the background. ;)

Bill Fowler said...

Since I don't have a meeting, I'll pick up on Tony's thought...

Christians hold themselves to a higher standard by definition. When the individual fails to live up to that standard, the secular culture enjoys watching and documenting.

With help from a cynical and hungry mass media, Christians become one that says one thing and does another. Christian hypocrisy is not a a modern invention, however.

It's very easy to say you're a Christian. It's very difficult to be one.

Many seeds are sown. Some fall among the thorns, some on the rocks, some are eaten by birds. Few fall on fertile ground.

All we can do to reverse this stereotype is to not only say, but do; publicly and proudly.

Preston N said...

Most of the time it seems when this type of questions comes up people often reply to it by saying "I must do _______" (I am speaking in general terms here and not specifically those who post on this blog). In other words we often feel as if it is by doing more of something (or less for that matter) that this will somehow make us better Christians. But I would suggest we go much deeper than that.

A renown pastor once wrote "Common sense can only dictate that if God is going to energize us in our ministry and witness, He can only do this in proportion as we are laboring in accordance with His will and purpose. It is to be feared that many zealous Christians are unwittingly opposing the very effort that they are giving themselves for by failing to discern clearly the mind of God as revealed in His Word"

In other words one of the main reasons people are not living as Christians should, often comes down to what or how they believe. People live according to their theological beliefs - for this is how we are designed. Paul apparently know this and gives us clear warning to be on guard of what or how we believe I Timothy 4:16, Col 1:28, 2:8, II Tim 2:17-18, I Cor 3:10b,

Several days ago Dean had a post entitled "Just Thinking" where he began to delve a little into this topic. I think these two post are interrelated. Dean said in his post "The Christ-follower's life should consist of a series of very deliberate thoughts which translate into actions". Those thoughts are motivated by a persons theology or how they relate to God. If someone has a continuous problem with sin - its not the sin that's the real issue - but their thinking and understanding of how their relating to God. When we hear Jesus say "and the Truth Shall set you Free!" - we need to ask ourselves "why is the truth so vital and how will it set someone free from sin"? Knowledge and understanding is the real issue here.

So to answer Deans question I would say what we really need to do is take a long hard look at our theology and see if it lines up with what the bible really says (ie. see Dean's post"Marty Robbins and Priestly Clothes"!). As we come to know more of Christ and we draw closer to Him, we should become a reflection of Him to the the rest of the world. The question here is how well do you know the Savior and how much time are you spending with Him? When we have been in the presence of Christ, the rest of the world can not help but know who we've been spending our time with.

Tony M said...

Oops... just realized I never finished my comment (I wasn't feeling well after church last night), and unfortunately I have a meeting at 8 today so I have to get ready for work in about 2 minutes. Fortunately, everyone else seems to have answered the question with most of what I'd write anyway... if I remember, I'll revisit this tonight. Great comments, everyone!

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