Friday, January 13, 2012

Christian Exceptionalism

Anyone who reads the news or peaks their head out the door on any given day knows that this world is a world gone mad.  We live in a world that is obsessed with sex, entitlement, selfishness, rudeness, anger, false religion, and outright rejection of God.  It is hard to make it through the day without being tempted from every angle either to join in their sin or fall into anger and bitterness at those around you.  It would be so easy to just give up and live as everyone else, but we have to always remember we are not like everyone else.  We are called to be above everyone else to give hope to those few who seek it and share the good news of Jesus Christ to those few who yearn to receive it.   We are not just another person in the world, but we are so much more.
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all [who are] in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.   Matthew 5:13-16 NKJV
We are the light and salt.  We are the contrast.  We are the right way in a world bent on going the wrong way.  We are the light shining into the darkness of  this present age.  We are the flavoring salt in a world otherwise void of the testimony of God.  We are the preserving salt in a world that would be hopeless if God did not send us out into the world to bring them the hope of Jesus.  In other words, we are a distinct and different people.  We should not do as the world does, but exemplify the right way to do things.  We should not believe as the world does, but share the only truth that can lead to eternal life.  Let's see how this works in our day-to-day lives. 

First of all, the world is obsessed with sex.  You can not watch television, go the movies, play a video game, go to the mall, or just about anything else without being reminded of sex.  It has also infiltrated our public schools and children's television.  If you allow your child into the world, your child will be exposed to sex.  If you go out into the world, you will be exposed to sex.  The world teaches that sex is part of dating.  The world teaches that sex before marriage is a normal part of life and if you do wait you are some kind of a freak.  The world blasts images of barely dressed women at married men when they are just trying to watch a game.  We can not allow ourselves to sink into filth of the world.  When a barely dressed woman comes on television, our response should not be to ogle at her and make comments about her body.  If you are married, that is adultery.  If you are single, that is fornication in your heart.  Among unsaved friends, it is a terrible witness.  If you are single, you should only be dating another Christian and any kind of sex should wait until marriage.  There should not be some imaginary line as to what kind of sex is acceptable before your vows, but a wall where no kind of sex is acceptable.  It comes down to trust.  Do you trust the world in saying that sex before marriage is good or do you trust God who says it is not?  Our purity before marriage and our integrity as a spouse after marriage must be protected.  Sure you may take some jabs from your friends, but that is only because they are too proud to admit they respect your integrity. 

Our world is also obsessed with a sense of entitlement and selfishness.  We think we deserve just about anything we want and we lash out at corporations who dare to make a profit.  We feel entitled to health care, college educations, food stamps, government monetary assistance for just about anything that goes wrong, and that is just a beginning.  We make folk heroes out of a bunch of spoiled college kids who felt "entitled" to take over a public park, not allowing others to use the parks as they were intended.  They felt entitled to tie up traffic, destroy local businesses, use bathrooms at private property and not clean up after themselves, and to disrupt anyone who may disagree with them.  They did all this to tell us how they were entitled to jobs and just about everything else I mentioned.  Quite honestly, if us or anyone in the world got what we were entitled to, we would all be bathing permanently in the lake of fire.  The message of entitlement is the antithesis of the gospel that teaches us that Jesus paid the price so we do not have to receive what we actually deserve.  The message of Jesus is for us to deny ourselves, not elevate ourselves into some grand sense of entitlement where we deserve what we want handed to us on a silver platter.  We must be in contrast with the world and learn to be happy and content with what the Lord allows us to have.  You may not gain much stuff, but you will be planting seeds and laying up treasures in heaven. 

We must also strive against selfishness.  Instead of demanding what we think we deserve, we should be trusting God and learning to give to others of what we already have.  We need to be others-centered not self-centered.  We need to learn to be giving in a world that is demanding.  Will that get us taken advantage of?  For sure it will.  Jesus even tells us to allow that in his instruction to go the second mile with the Roman soldier who commands you to go one mile carrying his things.  Jesus tells us to give more than what is demanded of us by others.  Jesus never tells us to demand things from others but to learn to give to others.  We must deny ourselves and learn to live selflessly.  If the world takes advantage of it, they are only heaping coals upon their own head.  Others will see Jesus in our actions and will take the time to hear the message of hope.  So many missionaries and outreaches are premised in giving and using that as a vehicle to share the Gospel message. 

Do not even get me started on rudeness.  It seems to be a way of life.  Whether it be men who insist on urinating on toilets seats in public rest rooms, people who talk and text while driving swerving all over the road or at changing and unpredictable speeds, people cutting with their friends in line, or people generally doing whatever they want that makes their life easier or more fun with no regard as to what it does to others.  This, once again, is an expression of selfishness.  It is hard to go a day without one person being rude to you in some way.  I can not remember if and when that has ever happened unless I did not leave home or make a phone call.  Even then, I do check emails and with my business, rude emails are not as uncommon as I would like.  Once again, we need to be the contrast.  We must always consider how what we are doing is affecting other people.  I always find it ironic when I get cut off or otherwise harassed by another driver and when they do get in front of me I see a Christian fish on the back of their car.  I know of another Christian wearing a Christian t-shirt who provoked a shouting match over a parking spot.  When my friend who was a Christian asked him about his tshirt, my friend was told that he did not even deserve Jesus.  Do we understand how damaging this kind of behavior is to our witness in a world already looking for reasons to malign us?   (What I am about to say is just as much for me as my wife can attest)  No matter how rude someone may be to us, we must respond in grace and kindness. 

Speaking of rudeness, let's talk about anger.  We all get angry.  We should never be angry for our own sakes.  The world is all about giving someone what they deserve (I refer you again to what the Gospel says about getting what you deserve).  The world is about revenge under the guise of self defense.  The world is about meeting might with might when our call is to meekness.  The world is about an eye for an eye, but Jesus is about loving our enemies.  We must not give into the temptations of anger.  We must not lash back when others lash at us, but respond in love.  The Bible tells us that a quiet answer turns away wrath.  Anger is all about satisfying a debt we consider owed to us by another.  We feel we deserve to be angry and to lash out. We feel the other does not deserve grace and forgiveness but a piece of our mind.  That is anger and Jesus tells us that even holding anger in our hearts is equal to murder. 

The world is also engrossed in false religion.  I am not talking about adherents to other faiths, though they are also false.  I am talking about those who dabble in things not really understanding what they are getting into.  It is those who read the horoscopes or go to palm readers and other so-called psychics.  I am talking about those who think that everyone goes to a "better place."  It seems like there is some bizarre mishmash religion held by most of the world.  Once again, we can not give any credibility to this false religion.  We can not talk about our Zodiac sign or read our horoscopes.  We can not go to psychics or talk of people who do not believe in Jesus having gone to a better place.  Better to hurt someone with a hard truth than to mislead them with a lie, even if that lie makes them feel better.  You are doing no good allowing people to live in this kind of delusion.  These people are merely creating their own god that suits their own needs. 

Finally, much of the world is now in outright rejection of God.  Whereas at one point, atheists were sort of like Big Foot.  You heard stories about them, but never really met one.  Now they are all over and they are aggressively spreading their foolishness.  In fact, one school local to me was just successfully sued to remove an ecumenical prayer from their school.  This banner had hung for decades until one atheist feigned offense and sued.  Sadly, this poor misguided student who does not understand enough to even understand what she does not understand was used as a pawn in an evil game.  Atheists will attack us, our intelligence, our devotion, our Bible, and our God with the worst kinds of disrespect. They do this because it is not that they do not believe in God, they just hate God.  They do this also to get a reaction out of us to try and prove their point.  We must not give them the satisfaction of evoking a response, but only respond in kindness and love.  They love to share the utterly reprehensible emails and letters they get from misguided Christians acting out in anger, we can not give them this ammunition. 

All in all I hope that what you see is a common theme of selfishness.  Whether it be a sense of entitlement to get whatever they want, an attitude of they will do what they want no matter how it may hurt others, an idea of sex that it is merely a tool for pleasure and not a sacred act between husband and wife, a feeling that those who wrong them personally must be hurt, a false religion that creates a god after their own image, or a world where the God they hate is not even spoken of.  It is all selfishness.  We must the the contrast.  We must flee from all sexual immorality.  We must, as Jesus said, deny ourselves and live selflessly.  We must not feel entitled to anything but be thankful for what we do receive.  We must always consider others in whatever it is we do.  We must respond to personal wrongs with the love and grace God has shown to us by sending His son to die for our sins while we were still sinners.  We must not acquiesce to false religion but always stand for truth even if that makes us look like "extremists."  We must always proclaim God even if a judge tells us that it is wrong.  We are different. We are distinct.  And by the grace of God and through His work in us, we are better than all that.  We are no longer slaves to sin or the ways of the world and we must live in that freedom.  We are the light and salt of the earth by virtue of being Christian and we must begin to express who we are in Christ.  The Bible says we are not of this world, we need to remind ourselves of that whenever we are faced with the world's temptations. 
But you [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;  1 Peter 2:9 NKJV

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