"Why is not working?”
There’s an old joke about a young boy looking at his mum spending a long time doing makeup in front of the mirror.
Mum, what are you doing?
I am doing my makeup, darling.
To look more beautiful.
But why is not working?
I remembered this joke when I was thinking about the fact that, without some special and explicit hints, it’s virtually impossible to surely tell, in a group of people, who is a Christian and who is not, based only on their actions and behaviour.
But, according to what Christians love to boast about, this task should be one of the easiest. Yet there’s a big chance one would end up guessing completely wrong.
Christians like to say that Christianity is a life changing experience, an almost “magical” endeavour. Jesus, they say, is the perfection that they must set as the target for their lives. They acknowledge that they won’t be that perfect, but they claim that they are being helped by the Holy Spirit. For them, it’s a binary system: you are on Christ’s team or you are not. If you don’t have Christ then you are doing Satan’s work. Simple as that. In II Corinthians 5:17 we read: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new”. So, it really should be easy to spot this life changing event.
Along with that, there’s a cliché widely used by Christians, a verse from Matthew 7:16: “By their fruit you will recognize them”, where Jesus was supposedly teaching how to recognize false prophets. So it’s the way, by the Christian standards, we can distinguish true Christians from the rest of the world. But it can be tricky, because a few verses later Jesus says: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’. And on Matthew 23:27 we read: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean”.
In I Corinthians 2:11 we read: “For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them?” So, what kind of fruits are we supposed to look for, if only God knows what’s in one’s mind and we can be deceived with just the looks?
When I was a kid, in a more conservative church, we were taught that these fruits can be easily counted, numerically: the number of pamphlets distributed, the number of school friends invited for church, and so on. You could even get extra points for each invited friend that raised their hands on the appeal at the end of the sermon.
Ok, that was childish and ridiculous, even though that’s what a large group of Christians seem to believe. Eventually most of us grow up, so year after year, running away from situations in which you could be ridiculed by your secular friends, rationalization kicked in a lot more, and you ended living a mostly ‘normal’ life.
So, most modern and liberal Christians are convinced they don’t have to do anything at all, because we read in Matthew 5:13: “You are the salt of the earth... ...You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
So, magically, they just have to be themselves and there’s no way the world could not see them shining, naturally. After all, they have Christ, and that means life transformation. What kind of transforming light is that? They supposedly shine through the fruits of the Spirit, as described in Galatians 5:22-25: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other”.
Easy. With this magical nine item laundry list, the Christians would shine their way apart from the rest of the world. We are told that even if non-Christians try their best with these items, trying to ‘mimic’ Christians, they would eventually fail, because they would continue to be driven by Satan , or at least, by their own sinful traits. The Christians, on the other hand, will succeed because they are being helped by no less than God himself, through the Holy Spirit, and in the event of any problem, they have complete forgiveness at their disposal.
So, it’s a piece of cake to separate the wheat from the chaff, isn’t it? After all, having more than two thousand years, Christianity has had plenty of time to excel in this area, right?
Well, I think we all know the answer. Although the Christians are sure that they are the light and the salt of the world, that they have the Holy Spirit, we see no difference. No magical transformation of lives, no super-trouper beans of light shining above everyone else. In some cases, actually, we see the complete opposite. Christians, and in general, religious people, seem to be more bigoted and judgmental than non-theists.
Some Christians (mainly the Protestants) could try to explain their “incognito living style” arguing that Salvation comes from faith alone and not from works, in order to avoid boasting (Ephesians 2:8-9 “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”), so they are judged solely by God who sees their hearts. But that goes against the “light of the world” concept and clearly contradicts James 2:14-17 “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? … faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” So there is no excuse: being a Christian requires life transformation and action.
Let’s face the facts. People are what they are, and there is no magical being or magic spell that gives super powers to anyone. Unsurprisingly enough, people who know their limitations and don’t think they are better than the rest of the world are able to, and indeed do, live a better life.
In : Religion
Tags: judgement faith christianity
blog comments powered by Disqus