Harold Camping’s prediction that the end of time would come this past May 21 is thankfully fading from memory.
However, most of us know it is but a matter of time before we will be fielding questions that result from the prophecies, prognostications and presumptive pronouncements made by other religious celebrities and misguided headline seekers.
I love our national guarantee of the freedom of religion. That provision of freedom also guarantees any American the right to make an idiot out of themselves in the name of religion, often confusing and implicating innocent bystanders.
Either life used to seem simpler, or maybe I was just simpler. Time has changed all of that, especially with regard to faith and action.
These days, I find some solace in answering a set of self-imposed questions when I am in doubt about a belief or action.
“Is it biblical?”
I am glad we Baptists and many others see ourselves as “people of the book.” I affirm the Bible as the supreme written authority for Christian faith and practice.
This does not mean that all Scripture is literally relevant in today’s world. For example, God’s people no longer receive directives to slaughter their enemies. I see no need to apply certain biblical social norms and, in doing so, attempt to marginalize women. Slavery is certainly a sin and most of us don’t “take up serpents” to testify to our faith.
“Is it logical?”
In other words, does it pass the test of intelligence or common sense? The largely concocted and outdated conflict that many believers and educated people assume exists between faith and reason needs to subside.
Some educated folks need to realize that all Christians aren’t mindless. Some Christians need to realize that all educated folks aren’t out to undermine the faith.
Frankly, I know that I believe, live, say and preach some things that may seem illogical. I tithe, pray and preach a gospel of grace I believe was made possible by the death and resurrection of a Jewish man 2,000 years ago. Yet, I still must put the logic test to questions and concerns that come my way.
“Is it beneficial?”
I don’t want to be a strict pragmatist, but actual or potential results are relevant. Inherent to faith is the notion that some long-term results of current beliefs and actions can’t be fully predicted.
Admittedly, to tie faith and action only to results is short-sighted. However, to divorce faith and action from significant results is to ignore the obvious.
“Is it moral?”
The Bible speaks to many moral issues – sometimes directly and sometimes by inference. Issues like war, the role of women, slavery and many other matters demand careful thought to determine a sound Christian ethic.
Sadly, many believers seem to make decisions based more on the potential profitability, popularity, pleasure or power gained by an action or belief in question. Of all people, Christians should consider the morality of an action or belief as primary. That moral standard is rarely easy or convenient.
“Is it loving?”
Joseph Fletcher’s book, “Situation Ethics,” caused such a stir close to a half century ago that he will never be forgiven by many moral traditionalists. His contention that doing the most loving thing was the equivalent of doing the right thing, even if traditional morality had to be ignored, was shocking.
Maybe his teachings opened the floodgates for some who were flush with hormones and short on understanding his intent. Possible misinterpretations of his work notwithstanding, one will rarely or never go wrong if one does the most loving thing in a given situation.
“Is it legal?”
Most of us know that breaking the law is sometimes necessary to do the right thing. Additionally, we are challenged to bring about changes in a legal system that is unjust or immoral.
The law of the land does not trump the word of the Lord, but the law does matter. Breaking the law in God’s name should not be done lightly.
“Is it respectful?”
I sometimes find myself trying to help churches that have been badly treated by pastors. Admittedly, change agents sometimes fail because of unwieldy churches. On the other hand, change agents sometimes fail because of disrespectful methodology.
Followers of Jesus must sometimes do things like drive money changers from the temple. However, most pastoral ministry will be more fruitful and faithful doing such radical things as an exception rather than as the rule.
“Is it Christ-like?”
This is the question that matters most to me. The other questions are not exactly subordinate to this one. Rather, the other questions are aids in answering this key question.
I would like to think I am walking a path toward Christ-likeness. However, I know I “see through the mirror dimly.”
Some religious leaders seem to see God’s will clearly at all times, even before it happens. I am not one of them.
More often than not, I see God’s will in retrospect. However, I do find the above questions most helpful to me as I try to live the Kingdom life.