Posts tagged #thedareeffect
Is Your Religion Useless?

I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living. 
What makes you think I want all your sacrifices? I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle. I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony? Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting—they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings. I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals. They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them! When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows (Amos 5:21-24; Isaiah 1:11-17).
The two texts above came to mind during a church discussion on social action. These writings highlight a major flaw in the religious expression of many. We often reason that so long as we are obeying God's law we are being obedient. But such is not the case. Like the Rich Young Ruler many of us are obedient only externally, but our hearts are far from God.

For example. Every Sabbath I pause and celebrate the rest that I have in God. By honoring the Sabbath I am being obedient to the fourth commandment. How cool is that? But the flaw is this: In all my Sabbath keeping have I ever stopped to think of those who do not know what rest is? There are 27 to 30 million slaves in the world today who never get to rest.* Do I care for them? Do I pray for them? Do I give of myself for them? Do I do whatever I can to help them experience the freedom and rest I celebrate each 7th day? If not, I wonder, does God even accept my Sabbath-keeping? Or does he likewise say, "Marcos, I hate all your show and pretense. Away with your Sabbath-keeping! I want to see a mighty flood of justice..."

Keeping God's commandments is not about observing a list of restrictions in order to become holy. God's law is a law of love, and commandment keeping is really just a tool to spur us toward that end. God wants us to be lovers not just "obey-ers". He is seeking passion, not "robot-ism". Many of us pride ourselves with our commandment keeping, but if our commandment keeping is void of seeking justice, helping the oppressed, defending the cause of orphans, and fighting for the rights of widows - what good is it? Allow me to answer that rhetorical question with a single word: useless.

James said it best when he wrote, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27). Unfortunately, I have spent most of my life focused on the second (keeping myself from being polluted) but have paid little to no attention to the first (caring for orphans and widows). James is, of course, appealing to common social problems of his day - problems which remain to this day. But the list is much greater. Whether it be Syrian refugees, local homeless, victims of abuse, human trafficking, or racism/ bigotry we are called to "help", "defend", "fight for" and "look after" them all. To ignore this while continuing our "commandment keeping" and "religious meetings" is, indeed, an insult to God.

But God calls us to act, and thankfully we don't have to wait for someone with a title to do it. We can take the challenge and run with it right away trusting that the God who called us to it will strengthen us through it. As Ellen White so eloquently put it, "All His biddings are enablings."** So today I challenge both myself and anyone reading this, lets stand up for the oppressed and the suffering. Let's reject useless religion and embrace the call to make a difference in this world. And thankfully, we don't have to start from scratch. Many are already engaged in this mission. All we have to do is join the ranks. Here are some steps on how to get started:

  1. Find what you are passionate about. There are thousands of causes to support. You are only one person. You can't support all of them. Find one or two that you are passionate about and give your time and energy to them.
  2. Seek out reputable organizations. As I said above, you don't have to start from scratch, sell your house, pack your bags, and move to a refugee camp to serve food. There are tons of reputable organizations out there that do amazing things already (Red Cross, ADRA, Compassion International, etc.) so why not start by joining and supporting them? If God leads you to something bigger, then go for it! But at least begin by taking a small step of support.
  3. Invest yourself in the cause. It's one thing to donate money from the comfort of your direct debit account. You can give to some cause and never have to think about it. But if you do, you will miss out on a huge blessing. Instead, invest yourself in the cause you support and show people that you care.
  4. Be creative. While you don't have to reinvent the wheel, you certainly can. Be creative. Start a campaign. Get others involved. And make a difference where you are. The following link has a step by step process on how to do this: How to plan a Social Justice Event

A religion that leads men to place a low estimate upon human beings, whom Christ has esteemed of such value as to give Himself for them; a religion that would lead us to be careless of human needs, sufferings, or rights, is a spurious religion. In slighting the claims of the poor, the suffering, and the sinful, we are proving ourselves traitors to Christ. It is because men take upon themselves the name of Christ, while in life they deny His character, that Christianity has so little power in the world. The name of the Lord is blasphemed because of these things… Search heaven and earth, and there is no truth revealed more powerful than that which is made manifest in works of mercy to those who need our sympathy and aid. This is the truth as it is in Jesus. When those who profess the name of Christ shall practice the principles of the golden rule, the same power will attend the gospel as in apostolic times (Ellen White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 137).


* United Nations Estimate.
**Christ’s Object Lessons, 331-333.
Should Christians Respect "Other" Beliefs?

Should Christians Respect "Other" Beliefs?
Last week I attended a gathering titled "The Dare Effect" with guest speaker Dilly's Brooks. This blog series are my thoughts on some of the conversations we engaged in.

Alterity is defined as "the state of being other or different". At first glance, alterity appears to be just a fact of life that we must all learn to live with. After all, our world is full of diversity. But how do we relate to this concept of "otherness" when it comes to faith and worldview? For example, Jesus declared that a connection to the Father is not possible outside of himself. In truth, Jesus has just declared that there is a gulf that separates man from God and that there is only one bridge which allows man to reconnect with God. Jesus then declares that he alone is that bridge. By default, all other bridges are faulty. In his immediate context these would have been the bridges of Platonism, Aristotelianism, Hellenism, Pharisaism, and contemporary Judaism. Jesus doesn't seem to mind that he is offending his hearers by neutering the perceived effectiveness of their systems of belief. He declares unequivocally: "No one can come to the Father except through me" (John 14:6)

So where does this leave us in the present age? In a world in which many worldviews and religions coexist? How are Jesus-followers to relate to the Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Jews? How are we to connect with the Marxist, Humanist, Skeptic, and Post-Modern? Do we respect their worldview? Or do we condemn it as just another faulty bridge unable to fully bridge the gap between God and man?

The question is truly not difficult to answer. All one needs to do is observe the many decades in which the church has attempted to force its belief on other cultures to realize that it never has nor will it ever work. If there is a faulty bridge that eclipses all other faulty bridges in its faultiness it is the bridge of coerced religion. If there is one thing guaranteed to not only keep man and God separated but to compound the separation it is this: religious intolerance. If the Jesus story is to penetrate the human heart one thing is clear - it cannot be forced.

However, the opposite is just as true. In our Post-Modern world tolerance has taken on a whole new meaning. What was once seen as a healthy respect for the "otherness" of another has now morphed into a type of indifference which considers the very proclamation of an alter-story the height of arrogance. In order to avoid being seen as Bible bashers many Jesus-followers embrace this hyper-tolerance and in doing so lose their sense of urgency - or even necessity - to share the Bibles redemptive alter-story. We reason that telling the story is too confronting so we stop telling it even though Jesus himself charged us to tell it.

So is there a middle ground? Is it possible to be intentional about the Jesus-story without being intolerant toward the "otherness" of the culture around us? I believe so. Here are some of the ways in which I personally approach this tension:
  1. Don't try and convert people. Just love them. It's God's responsibility to lead the conscience of man, not ours.
  2. Don't make relationships with people because you are looking for a baptism. Connect with them because you really, truly care.
  3. Seek to be with people. 
  4. Seek to understand people rather than argue with them about their beliefs. Ask them to explain their worldview to you and seek to truly enter into their world and see the world through their eyes. In other words, become an other with he who is another.
  5. Find common ground with other worldviews and celebrate those.
  6. Live out the Jesus-story in your personal life and be ready to connect others to him. Don't hide your faith. Instead, live it out in an organic and enriching way.
  7. Plant seeds. Let God water and grow them.
  8. Be prepared to teach the gospel from the Bible and to lead someone into a relationship with Jesus. Although God is the one who waters and grows the seed, he is known to use us as his watering-can.
  9. Seek God constantly for indwelling of his Spirit. Apart from him we can never hope to connect anyone to Jesus.
If we approach the religious tensions of our day this way we will find a good balance between being hyper-tolerant and intolerant. In this way we will fulfill the way of Jesus:
The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, "Follow Me." - Ellen G. White
Do you have any other ideas that can help? Share them below!