If you have read my posts, you will have gathered that I attended a rather left-wing liberal, liberal arts college. Since my last writings for Grace Community Church I find myself graduated (hooray!) and doing things like job-searching, knitting, and painting my toenails fire-engine red. No worry, what I have mostly enjoyed is the sheer amount of reading and thinking that my free (at the moment) schedule allows! During this time of waiting, I recently had one of those philosophical-religious-intellectual conversations, where an astounding truth from God hit me.
I stayed in Berea (with its largely left-wing liberal environment) precisely because such conversations are still to be had.
One line from this chat went something like, “The base of all religions is love. Jesus was love, he and people like Ghandi were great examples of doing the right thing. It’s where we all need to end up: so loving that you’ve reached the divine. All religions point to love, so they’re all equally valid.”
Obviously there are several statements in this claim; I am going to interact with just one of them today. The notion that religions in general – Christianity in particular – are meant to make us “do the right thing” is commonly promoted. One might easily argue, then, that yes all religions must have equal weight if they all have this one goal in mind. However, Christianity certainly steps off this bandwagon so you cannot argue that all faiths are similar in this respect. Christianity is not all about doing the right thing.
Keep your hat on, I did just say that Christianity is not all about doing the right thing but I will explain. The basis of the Gospel is this fact, stated repeatedly throughout Scripture: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 ESV) Break that sentence down, if we “were still sinners” when God loved us, we certainly cannot be accepted by God based on our performance. In his book The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges clearly lays out the situation, “Only perfect obedience is acceptable to God. . . [Christians] readily acknowledge that we can never through our own obedience attain a righteous that is sufficient for salvation.” (48)
What, then? If Christianity is not about me being a good person, what is it about? Christians proclaim that Jesus Christ, son of God, DID live as a perfect, moral, holy, obedient, just man. At its core Christianity does not say “Do what is right”, it says “Jesus did what is right. Come here, come into the family of God, and He will work out your salvation.” Believers sing praises that Romans 5 continues to verse 17 “For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (ESV)
Let me leave you with a quote from Don Carson, a premier biblical scholar, in his book Scandalous (another fantastic read):
We want to please God, we want to be holy, we want to confess Jesus is Lord. In short, because of the grace secured by Christ’s cross, we ourselves experience something of a transforming moral imperative: the sins we once loved we learn to fear and hate, the obedience and holiness we once despised we now hunger for. God help us, we are woefully inconsistent in all this, but we have already tasted enough of the powers of the age to come that we know what a transforming moral imperative feels like in our lives, and we long for its perfection at the final triumph of Christ. (31-32)
Yes and Amen!