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Monday, September 25, 2017

What is Christianity FOR? (as opposed to what is it against?)

Christians are all too frequently known for what they are against. In present society, we are held to mostly be against two sins that Christ, Himself, never mentioned.

Christianity should be for something, or more than one something. What should it be for, or what should it really be about? It strikes me that we should be for three things:

A remedy for sin. The world has a huge sin problem. I have a huge sin problem. You have  a huge sin problem. The Bible makes that clear. It also makes clear that Christ was our sacrifice for sin, that God will forgive sin, and that there is a way for God to, as Charles Wesley put it, "take away our bent to sinning." (in his "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling")

Making the world a better place, by bringing about Christ's kingdom in the here and now. There have been famous examples of this: Wilberforce and the end of the slave trade in the UK; Mother Teresa; the construction of mission hospitals; supporting woman suffrage; and more. In addition, Christianity, or individual Christians, have been responsible for a lot more. Some historians of science believe that a belief in an ordered universe, and a command to have dominion, were the motivating factors behind the great advances of science in the past. Galileo, Newton and Kepler were believers (although Newton's Christianity was rather unorthodox). Francis Collins, the former head of the human genome project, is a Christian. There are many more.

But I don't have to go to the slums of India, or to a gene sequencing apparatus, to make the world a better place. I can be friendly and unselfish to my family, my co-workers, my neighbors, to people I encounter commercially, such as checkout girls, repair persons, sales clerks, and phone tech support people, and people who are in situations where we find ourselves together, such as standing in a checkout line with me, being transported near me, or being close at some public event. Christ wants us to do such things. He did. Which brings us to . . .

Having a relationship with Christ. This one is harder to pin down, for me, but it's essential. In his Union with Christ: the Way to Know and Enjoy God, Rankin Wilbourne points out that two of the greatest prayers in the New Testament were for exactly that:

John 17:19 For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. 20  Not for these only do I pray, but for those also who will believe in me through their word, 21  that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that you sent me.

Ephesians 3:16 that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, to the end that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be strengthened to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, 19 and to know Christ’s love which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

I hope I'm manifesting these three attitudes. Whether I am, or not, they are something worth living for.

Thanks for reading! 

Added December 27, 2017: A recent article by Tim Keller is related. He points out that, to all too many people, evangelical has become a synonym for "hypocrite," and briefly describes what should be fundamental characteristics of evangelicals. None of these four characteristics are political, and they aren't primarily negative. I'm an evangelical Christian, and evangelicals, for better or worse, have gotten lots of attention lately.

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