The fundamentalist Christian movement began in the 1920’s as a hedge against modernism. This movement is characterized by a strict belief in the literal interpretation of scripture. Often the modernism that is rejected among fundamentalist relates to science (e.g. evolutionary theory and the age of the universe), music that is not specifically Christian and a negative response to anyone who doesn’t conform to their rigid interpretation of who is acceptable to God. (It is interesting to note that this is often reflected in a rejection of anyone who doesn’t look like or act like “them.”)
People are free to believe what they want, even if I don’t agree with them. However, the fruit of Christian fundamentalism is often exclusionary, self-righteous and at worst borders on the heresy of Pelagianism. Pelagianism has come to be identified with the view (whether taught by the British monk Pelagius or not) that human beings can earn salvation by their own efforts.
When any Christian is convinced that they have things figured out and have God figured out for that matter, self-righteousness often follows. When a person or group of people are convinced that they are truly God’s chosen there has to be a group of people who are not chosen. Unfortunately, judging and throwing stones often follows. It is really hard to share God’s love when we are judging and hating whole categories of people.
Every Christmas we hear the story from Luke about the angels announcing the birth of a Savior. They tell the shepherds that they bring “good news of great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
I take the word of the angels very seriously. The message of God’s love (good news) is for everyone. There are no pre-requisites for wanting to hear the good news of God’s love. If someone wants to hear about the love of Jesus, nothing more is needed! That is good news indeed!
What about change? Doesn’t the good news change people? Absolutely it does! But change doesn’t mean conforming to look like or behave like everyone else. However, God is in the transformation business. God wants to transform our hearts into containers of love. God cares less about what we look like and who we hang out with as he does about the amount of love we have for Christ and for others.
The Christian walk is not about behavior. It is about love. When we reduce our faith to a way of acting versus a way of loving, we have lost sight of what God intends for us. Moralism (behavior based activity) does not require God. There are many moral people who don’t believe in God. What makes us different is that Christians are forgiven only to sin again. Christians understand that we will never achieve perfection and it is unrealistic to expect change from others when we can’t fully enact change in our own lives. Instead, we love others as Christ has loved us. Meaning we love others in spite of their mistakes as others do the same for us.
As we step into 2018, let us resolve to love more, judge less and abundantly welcome others into the fellowship of sinners who crave God’s tender mercy.
Happy New Year!