Monday, June 22, 2009

Inside Looking Out or Outside Looking In?: Part 3-Why Do I Behave?

Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)
8Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

In What Do Christians Believe, author Malcolm Guite states that the three core elements of being a Christian is a sense of belonging, believing, and behaving. Behavior in Christianity is essential because "what we do is both the consequence and the cause of what we are" which has eternal significance (What Do Christians Believe, Pg. 3). Christians are associated with being kind, compassionate, and overall good people, but unfortunately they're also known for a lot of unchrist-like traits. So how is it that followers of Jesus Christ have earned such a horrible reputation? Our personal behavior is shaped by the other two elements of what we believe and to which community we belong, but does not confine them to these two elements. Yet how we behave is, or at least should be, the very heart to being a Christian.

When studied through a magnifying glass, anyone outside Christianity can sort through a Christian's beliefs and community "values" to selectively pick and choose anything that might sound unchrist-like. In fact you can do this with about any major religion but this does not get to the core as to why believers behave the way they do. The person, not the beliefs themselves, chooses how to act on a daily basis. These beliefs may shape the boundaries of our behavior but only at the digression of the believer. The beliefs and teachings are there as a guide (not a rulebook) to help reform ourselves. In fact, being a Christian means that we acknowledge that we are broken and in need of help and guidance. This humbling knowledge should be enough to encourage us to behave more loving towards one another because we are all the same, we are human.

You don't have to look far to see the broad range of positive and negative perspectives, based on outsider views, of a particular faith. And this is where many make the crucial mistake in equating a person's religion with the person's character. There is just as much violence, prejudice, and hatred found in the Qu'ran as in the Bible that CAN be perceived as a window to a believer's heart. But the skeleton's in Christianity's (or even Islam's) closet should not be taken in as a generalization of the believer's heart. The same can be said of Atheist who don't believe in God are somehow immoral because they choose not to follow the teachings of the Bible. Balderdash! An Atheist can be just as loving, honest, and compassionate as a Christian since the belief in God does not give believers a moral high ground. We each choose how moral we want to be regardless of what we believe. We may choose to follow different guidelines but we all yearn to bring out the best in humanity, "the better angels of our nature."

So how can we as Christians live up to the teachings of Christ without appearing unchrist-like? By seeking to become love incarnate, like the Son! If we are to be a light onto the world we must first put down our banners and trumpets proclaiming our self-righteousness and BE love. Forget fighting over the definition of marriage, forget fighting over abortion, forget fighting evolutionists over the origins of man, forget fighting period! Go out and BE love.

If I find that something I believe limits my love for my fellow man why should I continue believing it? Because God said so in a book? Because the community says we should? We should continuously be questioning our community and our beliefs so that we may have that open window to Christianity's frontier. This, I believe, will help us in our quest to becoming love incarnate. The only problem with this is that man is too fractured, too tribal to seek out Eden. We may never find it but we may come close by doing, by being, by loving. So instead of asking what would Jesus do, let us begin by asking: what would Love do?

Inside Looking Out or Outside Looking In?: Part 1-Where do I Belong?
Inside Looking Out or Outside Looking In?: Part 2-What do I Believe?
Inside Looking Out or Outside Looking In?: Part 3-Why do I Behave?

Read all three back-to-back, here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post! I really enjoyed this one. I especially liked this:
"If we are to be a light onto the world we must first put down our banners and trumpets proclaiming our self-righteousness and BE love."

Don R

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