Being Christian 3
Part three of three
I ended my last post saying that one should come to Christianity because it is true. That comes across a little arrogant, I suppose. I recently listened to an excellent talk by Mark Meynell from All Souls church in London (link below). He talks about how arrogance and religion seem to go hand-in-hand. Christians have often been labeled judgmental. Religion and religious people are often thought of as arrogant. Jesus as the only way? How exclusive!
Meynell says his friend Tim Davis has this observation about people’s reaction to religion and religious people:
If people believe that ultimate truth exists to be found, they are fundamentalists. If they claim to have discovered that truth, they are arrogant. If they claim others haven’t understood that truth, they’re divisive. If they claim others teach different than that truth, then they are intolerant and dogmatic. If they want to live by that truth and call others to live by that truth, then they are actually harmful.
So who on earth wants to be thought of as a harmful, divisive, intolerant, dogmatic fundamentalist? Yikes. Yet that is what Christianity is often reduced to.
I’ve had people call me religious and I cringe. I don’t like that term, nor do I care for religion much either. Both, to me, insinuate a set of beliefs, dogma, and practices. I would argue that Christianity isn’t just a religion or a doctrine or a set of beliefs. Neither is it only a set of rules or a practice or a tradition. Mind you, that is not to say that it is not also those things or that those things aren’t important. Those thing express and shape the understanding of our faith.
But if someone comes to me and wants to know what Christianity is all about, my job is not to make them believe everything I believe. My job is not to tell them what they do and don’t need to do in order to be saved. Oswald Chambers said: “Jesus said, ‘Go and make disciples…,’ not, ‘go and make converts to your own thoughts and opinions.’” My job is not to convert anyone. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. My job is to introduce people to the person of Jesus Christ. Because it is he who saves.
Sound arrogant? Look at it this way, says Meynell. Say you needed a very dangerous heart surgery in order to survive and your cardiologist refused to do it because it was just too risky. So you put it out to all doctors, looking for someone to do the surgery because without it you will die. You still get the same answer. No one is willing to do the operation. Finally one doctor says, “Yes. I have the skills to do it.”
Is that doctor arrogant? If she really can do it, is it arrogant, or is it lifesaving? Whether or not it is arrogant becomes irrelevant. What matters is if she can do what she promises.
Jesus is not arrogant if he can pull off what he says he can do—or should I say did. Faith is believing that he has indeed done it and giving him the credit. To say that Christ saves isn’t arrogant because the confidence isn’t based in what I do, but in what God has done through Christ. Christianity doesn’t say, “Act this way and be saved.” Christianity says, “You’ve been saved, now act this way.” There is a big difference.
Being Human connection: Following Christ requires humility, not arrogance. Humility enough to accept grace as a sheer gift, not something that can ever be earned.
To listen to the entire talk on Psalm 138 by Mark Meynell, go here:
Featured artwork: Vincent Van Gogh, “Old Man in Sorrow (at Eternity’s Gate).” 1890. Web Gallery of Art, http://www.wga.hu