I promise, I am still working on Flesh and Blood. But I want to take a moment to talk about something very close to my heart. Something of great importance.
Lately, some of my friends have come under attack for their Christian beliefs. This, unfortunately, is normal. You can’t live the Christian life without having to go through the flames sometimes. We accept that, and while I hate to see any Christian under fire and I step in to support them whenever I can, that’s not what bothers me. The devil is at work in this sinful world. We are meant to be “lights in the darkness”. The very fact that our God had to die a horrendous death tells us that this life isn’t an easy one. Our hearts are ready for worldly attacks and personal insults, while painful, do not stir me to the point of putting my foot down.
The reason I felt the urge to post today is not because of the hurtful things I’ve heard said about my friends. It’s because of what I’ve heard said about my faith. The biggest point of argument as of late has been that Christianity is an “oppressive” religion. Now, the claims these people have made are, to an extent, true. Many Christian people can be very oppressive towards others. But before you label the entire religion of Christianity as oppressive, let’s read up on the facts.
As Christians, we are taught that certain things are wrong. Worldly. Sinful. Of the devil. Against God. However you want to phrase it. Things such as alcoholism, sensual relationships outside of marriage, homosexuality, and worship of other gods are forbidden and grievous to God. This is because man was made in God’s image, but given the gift of free will. God created a certain order, established the way of life in which He wanted us to live. He began the world under this order, an order that was meant both to keep us happier and healthier, and to glorify Him in the most beautiful way we could. By stepping outside of these boundaries and worshiping other gods or using our bodies in ways that they were not built to be used, we are sinning.
We are taught that certain attitudes or actions are against God, things like pride, covetousness, anger, hate, selfishness. These things are against God because they do not glorify Him or reflect His image. These are sins, and we are taught to avoid them because God is a just and holy God, who cannot allow sin in his presence. We are also taught to keep ourselves away from those who partake in these activities, because – whether we like it or not – the people we surround ourselves with influence us.
Sounds like I’m arguing that Christianity is oppressive, right? Well, here’s where my argument comes in. While we are called to keep ourselves apart from people who are continually falling into sin, John 13:34 says “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (emphasis added) Sounds contradictory at first, does it not? But if one looks deeper, there is a much greater truth to be found. These two commandments are speaking of very different things. We are called to protect ourselves by making our closest friends the people we know are stronger in their faith than we, so that through them our own faith will be strengthened. But do you hang out only with your closest friends? No. We are called to learn from and spend the greater part of our time around those who will be good for our mind and soul. However, we are called to reflect God all the time. Furthermore, we are called to love as we have been loved by God!
So what exactly does that phrase mean? Let’s take a look. Christians do not claim to be perfect. In fact, we know the exact opposite is true. We know that if it was not for Christ’s death on the cross in our place, we would not be allowed in the presence of God. We are sinful, fallen people. We also know that God counts no sin as greater or less than any other. In other words, God sees my disrespect towards my parents as just as grievous a thing as committing murder. So in God’s eyes, that makes every Christian just as sinful, worldly, and needy of His grace and love as any non believer.
Our sins are covered by Christ’s sacrifice. That is the only difference between a Christian and anyone else. And Christians are called to love the way we have been loved. This means we are not called to mock, tease, taunt, or oppress anyone. The Christian faith is not an oppressive one. Christians are told specifically to love the people of the world. This includes those of other religions, atheists, homosexuals, and every other group of people. We are told to live as a light in the darkness. In but not of the world. We are called to accept people as they are and love them as Christ loves us, no matter who they, what they’ve done, or what they believe. We are to be living proof of God, and God is love.
So why is it that everyone labels us as oppressive? The answer is simple. Christians are people too. Our sins are covered by Christ’s blood, and therefore we have been accepted as sons and daughters of God. But we are still humans with a fallen nature. When we accept God’s gift of grace, God enters our heart, and begins the process of sanctification – changing us to be more like Him. When He enters our heart, we fall in love. We seek Him, run after Him, long to learn more about Him. And when you love someone, you want to please them. This is how He changes us. But sanctification is a process. We are not made perfect over night. We still fall, and give in to our sinful flesh. And when this happens, it is most often shown through the sins of pride and self-righteousness. When we give in to these sins, we are far more likely to oppress people. Rather than show love and reflect God’s image, we become like the people we are oppressing… lost souls devoured by a fallen world.
It is a pity that many Christians cannot control themselves perfectly. But the fact that they are not perfect does not mean that Christianity is oppressive. Please hear me now, as I am not trying to start an argument or sound self-righteous or oppressive myself. I am simply doing my best to explain why this argument is both invalid and hurtful. In closing, I would like to share the passage I have been meditating on for weeks now. A passage that every Christian knows. A passage that has caused grief to many a Christian mind when they’ve come across it in their daily readings, because it cuts them to the core with its truth.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging symbol. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
-1 Corinthians 13