Walk the line

Galatians 5:1, It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Romans 14:15, And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died.

Within Christianity we find tension, lots of tension. For instance we must die to self to experience life, the last shall be first – and the first shall be last. Whoever would be great among you, must be servant to all. God has chosen His elect, and whosever will may come. Tension is no stranger to our thought processes. There are those who claim that these ever present series of tensions help undermine the credibility of Christianity. Those of us who are people of faith simply recognize that apparent contradictions are not contradictions at all, but simply part of the process of understanding God’s economy.

One of the greatest missing tensions within church life today is the tension of walking between freedom and responsibility. There is tremendous pressure on each side to bow to their personally held biases in order to conform to their image of Christianity. There are those on the more liberal side who maintain that truth is important but that love is supreme and when the two seem to come into conflict, love must win out – even over truth. Then there are our legalistic brothers and sisters who value truth over all things. These are the ones the spiritual masochists who would gladly cut off every vestige of themselves, and others, to preserve what they understand to be truth.

I’ll be the first to admit that walking this line is tremendously difficult. That’s what makes it so unpopular in my mind. Whether you value a more liberal theology, or whether you are more black and white in your application, to simply adhere to your theology without close, careful inspection of biblical truth, it is always easier to simply act in an expected vein than it is to buck tradition and behave biblically. For instance I can claim that the biblical record doesn’t allow for me to watch certain movies, or listen to certain media that much of maintstream Christianity says is out of bounds. Or I can claim that the Bible gives me freedom to do so, but because of my responsibility both God and others, I will choose to abstain. Which is the biblical route? Which is the easier route?

Additionally, in SBC life we have struggled with this in our approach to homosexuality. There are few that would deny the sinfulness of the homosexual act, and yet our approaches to it are as varied as the colors of the leaves in Northwest Missouri in the fall. Those on the more legalistic side of things preach cliché’s like “hate the sin, love the sinner,” but the application of that theology too often looks like “hate the sin and avoid the sinner.” They do this, all too often, because they’re fearful of “catching” the sin, it seems; and purity is always to be prized (in this thinking) above outreach. On the flipside, however, are those that simply welcome the homosexual in and throw their arms around them and say, “c’mon in! The waters fine,” and are hopeful that through excessive amounts of niceness, the homosexual – on their own, mind you – will come to the realization that their behavior is out of line with God’s character, if their behavior!
bothers the believers are all.

This same type of thinking is found in our approach to alcohol, tobacco, dealing with sin in the church, models of church methodology and the like. What we need in our churches within Southern Baptist life today is not more of the same. What we need are believers who aren’t afraid to try and tackle life from a biblical perspective. A perspective that acknowledges that as believers we have many more freedoms than Christianity has historically recognized, but who will also limit their personal freedoms for the sake of others and for the sake of the kingdom of God.

We need believers who aren’t afraid to walk the line in between freedom and responsibility without bowing to the voices around them that vociferously argue for their own positions and who maintain a biblical – not a traditional, societal, or even a comfortable – ethic. We need believers committed to the bible, and all that it holds – or doesn’t hold – in order to show the world authentic faith.

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

4 thoughts on “Walk the line

  1. Good post. It has been a great priviledge of mine to be out here on the edge (end of the world) and see many many young people who are exactly as you describe. I was quite a pessimist ten years ago about SB life but being here and seeing the quality of young people who have been willing to come to the most difficult and dangerous places in the world and stand fast for the truth has changed me. The King is producing incredible young people today in our own SBC. I don’t know how- it’s a God thing. But I want to encourage all who read your post to take it seriously and know that there are many who are not fearing man- neither worldly politicians nor the pharisees in our own convention- and the King is using them to take down the Gates of Hell. Keep writing, Micah!

  2. Careful, there, son. You’re closing in on explaining how the SBC ought to be, maybe even once was, and what someone is trying to shoot down, now.

    That “tension” … the seemingly conflicting views on some things … can only lead to a genuine, personal faith in those who seek an authentic relationship with a living and personal Savior. Could it be that some don’t want that? In themselves and/or in others?

    I’d never design that sort of element into a faith that I was inventing, but the LAST thing I’d EVER want is a faith that I designed myself. So maybe the striving for authenticity is a normal part of the faith-life of folks for whom God has said “business as usual” will no longer be “business as usual”.

  3. Excellent post.

    I started “hanging out” at an indoor-outdoor cafe in one of those culturally hip parts of town with restored homes and classic looking buildings a while back, just to get to know people and meet people who live in the neighborhood around my church. The people I have met, and am getting to know, are pretty much not Christians, but their open mindedness has permitted them to accept me, even though they know I am a minister. One common point is that several of us attended UH and go to the football games. I got invited to tailgate and sit with them. The first time I went, I was totally uncomfortable, and fearful that someone I knew would walk by and see me at a tailgate party with a keg, or at the game with some drunk, loud guys. I imagined winding up on some black list somewhere. I kept thinking, “How will I explain what I am doing here?”

    At this point, there has been no visible fruit as a result of these relationships. But, I actually have made several genuine friends, a couple of whom now feel comfortable enough to have me in their home, in one case to ask me to pray for a sick family member. I have stopped wavering about whether I should continue to hang out. I’m having fun and I haven’t compromised a single principle I hold.

    Thanks for the encouragement.

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