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.