It’s happened again — an “emergent” professing Christian on his Facebook profile posts a note making imbalanced claims, and I start offering responses. Others then add more responses, and they seem not to get anywhere with the post-writer or others sharing his views.
They tend to say things like “Christians seek both religious and political power and prestige,” without qualifier, as if seeking religious and political power is the only problem in the professing Church. Others like me say back that the Church has many problems, resulting from worse lack of belief in the Gospel. We get ignored in favor of more trendy slams against the Church, and on and on it goes, the great circle of internet time-wasting life. It’s quite a kick.
Here’s one sample, edited only slightly.
Counting up the stereotypes in your recent comment [. . .] I think you’ve been reading too many [George] Barna surveys without critically evaluating the kinds of people surveyed or the language used to qualify real “Christians.” (However, I’m surprised you also didn’t mention “Christians’ divorce rate is the same as the world”! )
Are all these supposed greedy-power-hungry-warmongering folks true Biblical *Christians* or merely professing ones?
(Even if they are Christians, should we condemn them for surface symptoms, or seek to understand and correct the roots of these errors: wrong views of Christ and the Gospel?)
Anyway, I know plenty of Christians who are not all about Stuff. They give their lives and resources for others. Plenty of popular Christian leaders, such as John Piper, directly oppose the idea of Christianity-and-the-”American-dream.” If you truly haven’t seen them, you need to get out more.
I don’t need to remind you of Jesus’ infamous (and sobering) reminder later on in Matthew 7: 21-23 that not everyone who calls Him Lord will enter His Kingdom.
“Jesus told us not to judge”? Actually, He cautioned against hypocritical judgment.1 Then He goes on to warn of false teachers that come in among the flock like wolves. You yourself are doing quite a lot of judgment in your comment. So am I, and judging in itself is okay, as long as we strive to judge without hypocrisy and with Christ-honoring love.
I think you already believe this. Still, I hear a lot of Christians being careless with their language. “Jesus told us not to judge” is a wrong statement that reinforces wrong views.
No, Christians are not perfect and have a lot to learn. Who would say otherwise? Yet looking to Him and the Gospel, not bemoaning problems, is the solution. Pulpit-pounders of previous generations (and some survivors today) decry the lack of moral behavior in the Church, but stop there.
Let’s not do that. Let’s point to Christ Himself and His Word, His Truth, His love for us and our resultant love for Him, our gratitude for Him saving us, as the basis for better living. That is the only way to wash the Bride’s garments cleaner: looking to its Groom and loving Him before than ever.
Naturally, this resulted in several Prayers of Salvation right there in the Facebook discussion.2
Well, maybe next time I’ll have this next quote on standby — thanks to my re-reading a little book by Randy Alcorn called The Grace and Truth Paradox. It’s the best summary I’ve seen so far by a popular yet Biblically based Christian author, about how Jesus is both grace and truth — and therefore, His people should be too.
Grace without truth is no longer grace, Alcorn writes in this little 90-page hardback. Without truth, “grace” turns into harmful, dangerous “tolerance,” a pathetic substitute.
And truth without grace ceases to be truth, he adds. “Truth” alone becomes self-righteousness.
That could summarize the entire book, which a trained reader could likely start and finish inside one afternoon. Thus a lengthy review might be half the length of the actual book! Yet I thought I’d post this brief excerpt, specifically addressing how the Christian grace/truth living affects how we perceive modern political platforms. Christians cannot claim a single party or cause without qualification, Alcorn says — something I wish “emergents” and others would remember.
Political Grace and Truth
Often, conservatives emphasize truth (morals), and liberals emphasize grace (compassion). Conservatives want to conserve what’s right; liberals want to liberate from what’s wrong.
Liberals’ commitment to fighting racism in the sixties was commendable. But sometimes liberals fight against true standards, life the beliefs that abortion, fornication, adultery, and homosexual behavior are wrong. They embrace tolerance as a grace substitute. Liberal Christians often end up being liberals first, Christians second.
Conservatives want to restore lost values. They want to go back to the days when prayer was allowed in schools. But they forget that the same schools that allowed prayer didn’t allow black children! By trying to conserve so many things—even things that were clearly wrong—conservative Christians have sometimes been conservatives first, Christians second.
Why should we have to choose between conservatism’s emphasis on truth and liberalism’s emphasis on grace? Why can’t we oppose injustice to minorities and to the unborn? Why can’t we oppose greedy ruination of the environment and anti-industry New Age environmentalism? Why can’t we affirm the biblical right to the ownership of property and emphasize God’s call to voluntarily share wealth with the needy? Why can’t we uphold God’s condemnation of sexual immorality, including homosexual practices, and reach out in love and compassion to those trapped in destructive lifestyles and dying from AIDS?
We cannot do these things if we are first and foremost either liberals or conservatives. We can do these things only if we are first and foremost follower of Christ, who is full of grace and truth.