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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bad Christians

The other day I was accused of being a “bad Christian.” I would have simply agreed with the woman making the accusation, apologized, and moved on – if the reason she had given had made a lick of sense. I had made a series of statements that amounted to the following:
If my neighbor is suffering or finds himself in want, it is my job to help him. The responsibility to support those in need does not lie with the government, rather with the families and friends of those less well off than we are. It is our job as Christians to do as much as we can for as many as we can as often as we can.
Because I do not believe “doing as much as I can” includes supporting higher taxes for the rich, extending unemployment benefits and entitlements that are easier to abuse than to use properly, and government funded healthcare, according to her I could not be a very good Christian.

Her justification for that statement was the story of the Rich Young Ruler. A young man comes to Jesus and asks what he must do to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus replied that he must follow the commandments and love his neighbor as himself. “All these I have kept since I was a child,” he said. To which Jesus responded, “Then go. Sell all that you have and give the money to the poor. Then come and follow me.”

(I must have missed the part where Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all he had and give it to the government, who could then distribute it to the poor.)

But more importantly, if this story is read alongside the rest of the Bible, it becomes clear that Jesus was applying a little irony to the situation. When the young ruler asks what he must do to gain salvation, Jesus gives him an answer that is based on works. The entirety of the New Testament, that statement excluded, presents a different view – that salvation is given by grace alone, through faith and belief in Jesus as the perfect sacrifice.

So why, then, after saying such things as “no man comes to the Father but through Me” would Jesus tell this man that he could earn his way into Heaven by following the law? Jesus knew two very important things: First, that complete obedience to the law (which the young ruler claimed he had accomplished) is impossible for a human being who is born with a sinful nature. And second, that to place full faith in Him, people have to stop viewing their possessions as their own – rather as gifts from God to use in the furtherance of His glory. The only way to make that young ruler view his possessions as belonging to God was to make him give them up. The point was obvious – in making the young ruler realize that he was unable to give up his possessions, Jesus gently directed his attention to the false idol he had made for himself of those possessions. By proving that the young ruler had in his heart violated the first commandment, he made it clear to him that earning his way into Heaven was going to be an impossibility.

Thus Jesus’ instructions were not intended to tell the young ruler what to do to be a good Christian; rather, they were intended to illuminate the fatal flaw in his approach to gaining salvation.

While I agree that I – or any other Christian, for that matter – could be legitimately called a “bad Christian” for not doing enough for our fellow man, it is solely because we as individuals do not do enough. It is not because we demand that help for the poor come from individuals rather than the government.

7 comments:

  1. I cannot agree with your idea that salvation is gained by faith alone. Multiple times in the New Testament is a balance of faith and good works sited as means of salvation. As an example James 2:24 and James 2:26. Both verses are very specific concerning the balance of faith and good works.

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  2. Faith and works are like peanut butter and jelly- with one comes the other, and they compliment each other. Salvation IS gained by faith alone, but once you have faith, it is only natural for us to CHOOSE good works. Faith is the biggest step toward understanding how we were really created in His image.

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  3. Good works are the physical manifestation of faith. It is true that faith without works is dead - that simply means that genuine faith will produce good works. Good works do not produce salvation. It's like leaves on a tree - if a tree (faith) is alive and healthy, then leaves (the good works) will appear. Leaves do not appear without the tree, nor do they create a tree where one was not.

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  4. Really, what the Bible basically teaches is that it takes both Works AND Faith. One can not be saved in simply having Faith in Jesus if it is not backed up by Works. Call it "True Faith" if you will...but people will claim that they simply must believe that Jesus is our Savior without backing it up by Works. The Bible is very clear on this - both Works & Faith.

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  5. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:8-10 is very clear - that salvation comes through faith alone, and that good works follow after.
    If faith alone was not enough then Jesus could not have promised Heaven to the thief next to him on the cross. The fact that he DID in fact promise Heaven to the thief on the cross - who had neither the time nor the ability to do the good works you claim are necessary for him to have gained salvation - suggests that either works are not necessary or that Jesus was not being truthful (which is not possible).

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  6. The fact that Jesus promised salvation to the thief on the Cross illustrates the point that, ultimately, God Himself decides who will be saved. Quote what you will, but I will provide you with the same scriptures that state Works alone will save. The Bible states it takes both...very clearly.

    I refuse to check this post anymore, because - quite frankly, you are never wrong. You argue for the sake of arguing and do your best to belittle those of us that don't share the same view point. I won't speak for those close to me, but we're just tired of continuously being "put in our place".

    You're picking your Scriptures and turning a blind eye to those that are in the Bible that state the contrary. I, however, agree that it does state exactly what you say - however, it provides instances of both Faith and Good Works. You cannot have one without the other. But, like I said previously, it is not for us to judge. Ultimately, it is not on use to state who will/will not be saved - only to read the Bible in its entirety and do our best to follow the direction provided.

    God Bless

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  7. For the record: on this page I will respect others and their right to hold views that differ from my own.
    That being said, I will not simply concede a deeply held belief over a few comments on my page, nor should I be expected to let such comments slide if they attack my core beliefs without presenting firm evidence as to their validity.
    If evidence is offered to support an opinion that differs from my own, I will do my utmost to consider the evidence offered. This is not a guarantee that my opinion will be changed, only a promise that I will consider the merits of the argument rather than simply claiming a win by fiat.

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