Christianity: more than rules

In response to various religious editorials run in The Falcon throughout this school year:

I am an unequivocally wretched Christian. At my writing this, I have not read my Bible today, nor did I yesterday. I have not attended church in two weeks. The last time I went to group, I did not worship, because I simply did not feel like worshiping. I have not recently embarked on any missions work, nor do I intend to soon. I have smoked two cigarettes. I have looked lustfully upon pornography. I curse, for little reason other than that it satisfies me to do so, and I have quite recently directed my harsh words toward my fellow Christians. I have hated my brother, both spiritual and biological, in my heart, and am therefore guilty of murder. I lie. This is all to say that by no means, under no circumstances, could I possibly seek to justify my Christian faith to you by any of the criteria posed by certain writers in the opinions section.

Obviously my position is dire. Perhaps, as seems to be popular of late, I should tout out my Bible, and see what it can do for me. It would seem that what I find there is not, as Nick Waltz suggested, a contractual obligation to a two-year mandatory period of "missions work" (now is not the time to discuss what Mormon missions actually do). In the New Testament I do not find a new list of aesthetic requirements for worship services on Christian college campuses, nor do I discover a new list of alternative religions to hate.

Rather, I find a man who calls me to die, to be born again, and transformed into a new creation. On no rational basis can we call this a simple exchange of the old law for the new. This is not a new system of more "doing;" it is a new life of being. If it has any commandments, they are commands to love our God and our neighbor, commandments so abstract and obscure that they cannot reasonably hold the name of law at all. And if we lack commandments, then any sort of standard by which we may be ranked and ordered according to comparative righteousness ceases to be, de facto.

Instead, the life that I refer to is now its own indescribable existence; it is a mystery beyond the knowledge of any but the Spirit who births it daily. As well as I can tell, it is found in the person of Jesus Christ, whose life will not be systematized, ordered, and categorized under the bylaws of any legal codex. It will not earn you Sunday school gold stars, nor will it bow beneath your blind yardstick of self-righteous chastisement. It is not measured in the wear on a missionary’s bicycle tires, neither in the numbness of a hand raised in song, nor — dare I say it — in the quantitative amount of belief in any system of orthodoxy. And it is in fact thoughtful enough to recognize that even writing a piece such as this one contradicts its very nature. Acknowledging this contradiction, I will make it complete by giving advice.

It is commonly said that the devil you know beats the devil you don’t, and this is true for life in Christ as well. If we desire a better existence for ourselves and those around us, that state of being must begin in us. If we aspire to make things better, we must not just do better, we must be better. I do not look to the CFE program to legislate this being for me, I don’t ask my church to make it so, and I don’t expect that any amount of my own chastisement towards my peers will encourage it if such exhortations does not take hold first in me.

Instead, I recognize that, as a greater writer than I has put it, "it’s not those grotesque, tired institutions of heaven and hell that are the problem — it’s the devils we know." We’ve got to enter into the struggle that decides it all, the fight with the highest stakes: the fight within. We’ve got to stop fighting each other and start actually making a difference. So please — writers, critics and all you defenders of "true" Christianity — trust that my life in Christ will live and grow in its own way, and as it grows, a way of doing will flow from its being; I do believe that given time and care, it will change the world as we know it. I grant you the same trust, and am even willing to partner with you in the uncertain, confusing and joyous life of Christ. But, if being a Christian is far more than just words, then it must also be more than just actions. It cannot be a matter of just changing the world around us, for such a sea-change will in fact be rendered meaningless if it is not the outward expression of an entirely new birth of the inward. For consistency’s sake, I will not tell you what to be, so please, don’t tell me what to do.

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Title: Christianity: more than rules | Author: Pierce Wade | Section: Opinions | Published Date: 2005-06-01 | Internal ID: 4579