As our society changes and evolves and I and my children and friends and my faith community are faced with ever evolving values and shifting truths and indeed shifting views on the very nature of truth and even outright denial that there IS TRUTH, I wonder, how now are we to live?
Our world has been dominated by the ebb and flow of many philosophies, cultural norms and religious ideas. Many have come and now vanished from the face of the earth. But the Judeo-Christian ethic is one that has remained through much of human history. Whether one adheres to its philosophy or not , there can be no denying that it has a long, long tradition behind it. For many years, we had been accustomed to that same ethic dominating western thought. But today, that is no longer true. We live in the post-Christian era. This thought may feel or sound disheartening, but I wonder if it isn’t an opportunity for the Christian church, worldwide to do something new. A time for the church to shine again, like a city on a hill.
In order to do this, we must turn inwardly. What I mean is that we often flail and fight and beat our fists against the changing laws and social mores of our shifting culture, yet within our own walls we gossip, complain, grumble, back bite, engage in what the Bible labels sexual immorality, and, I fear, that when we do not do these things we are often full of pride and self-righteousness because of our ability to adhere to a set of rules. Then we often withhold our friendship and kindness from those outside the faith. But the Bible says in I Cor 5:9-12, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside.” In other words, we have a certain set of values and standards by which God expects us to live if we call ourselves followers of Christ. Along with the listed offenses in this passage, in His Word, God continually calls out two particular types of people, more than any other. First, He calls out the prideful. Second, He calls out those that are strong who take advantage of the weak in any way. Psalm 10:14-18, Psalm 72:12-14, Psalm 146 and Luke 4:16-21 all outline God’s heart for the poor and oppressed. Further the Bible states in Romans 12:14-18, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” With humility of spirit and with the aid of our Helper, the Holy Spirit, let us each subject ourselves to rigorous self-examination. Let our lives be an open book under the scrutiny of the Father and let us compare ourselves not to the world, where it may be easy to find ways in which we can be prideful, but to the standard set in scripture by Jesus. And, hardest of all, we must allow our lives to be an open book to other believers so that we can encourage each other in the effort to live how God calls us to live. Brothers and sisters, we ARE called to judge. We are called to judge ourselves within our own church walls against this standard set out in scripture. That is how others will be drawn to the love of Christ.
The standards we should hold ourselves to as Christians should be motivated not by our own satisfaction in being able to follow a set of rules in order to achieve any kind of approval, either from God or man, but by love. The standard of life set up in the Bible creates a way of living in which we are the least harmful and most beneficial to our fellow travelers to the grave. It is a life in which we learn how to love people, how to give love away even when it is hard, even when you don’t get anything back. Jesus gave away love all the way to death. That’s hard.