Article: Principles

I ran across this phrase and it resonated with me. “It is always easier to fight for ones principles than to live up to them.”

 This appears to be true from what I can see. What do you think? There is a war of words going on in our country and compromise is nothing short of a curse word. Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporter who brought the Watergate scandal of the Nixon administration to light believes our nation is in (what he terms) a “cold civil war.” It is a war of words and there are two distinct sides. Each side is trying to either tear down the other or win converts. It isn’t working.

Human beings (us) are more concerned about what others are doing than doing the harder work of defining our own principles and striving to live up to them. We are much better at trying to impose our will on others than the hard work of self-reflection and self-discipline.

The issue itself doesn’t really matter, it could be anything. It is the behavior not the issue(s) I am talking about and it is the behavior that I want to address.

It is a fool’s errand to think we can make someone do (or believe) something if they don’t agree. Yet what do we see? People getting louder and louder about something they are passionate about wrongly thinking that if they are more brash than the “other side” they will either give in or give up. In the end, it will only cause further alienation.

The Christian church in America (not just the Lutherans) is declining because many outside the Church views us  as being hypocritical in our moral pronouncements on certain issues and people even if we aren’t doing that. This hurts all of us but most of all it hurts the cause and mission of Jesus which is all about love. But it is not just that. The world sees the Church acting poorly as individuals and wonders why we don’t live up to our own moral judgments and/or why we are so full of hate and exclusive.

Even if we aren’t doing those things at Bethel, we are lumped in the churches that do. This is hard to overcome.

Did you ever notice that Jesus never made anybody do anything? He never forced his will on anyone. Sure, Jesus instructed the disciples and even sent them out to share the good news of God’s love but he never, ever forced them to do it. He didn’t make the rich young ruler sell everything he had and give it to the poor so that he could follow Jesus and inherit eternal life. Nope, Jesus let the decision rest in his lap and this man decided to walk away. Jesus understood free will better than we do.

Why is it that the Church (in general) and some Christians tend to act more like Darth Vader of Star Wars in trying to impose their version of Christian moralism on others rather than letting people choose for themselves whether or not they want to experience the life changing love of Jesus? There is a big difference between imposing a moralistic ethic on people and loving on them in Jesus’ Name…I’m just saying.

All I am trying to make clear is this, maybe we should worry more about ourselves as individuals and trying to live up to our own principles than trying to impose our moral framework on others.

Let’s just be kind and compassionate.

God bless you,
Pr. Ben



6 thoughts on “Article: Principles

  1. As Christians, we believe in truths which will always be unfashionable. Like, for example, that God has given us moral commands we should do our best to obey, or you can’t get into heaven just because you are a nice person, or all religions are not the same. In fact, the HBO show Silicon Valley did a whole episode this season on how being a labeled a Christian is the worst possible thing you can do for your tech career/reputation in the Bay Area. How do we share unpopular beliefs without becoming Darth Vader christians?

    1. A couple of things… First, the question becomes where do we put our energies as a Christian? Do we invest our time and energy making sure people follow God’s moral commands inside and outside of Christianity or do we invest our time and energy in nurturing our relationship with Christ and nurturing others in that same relationship? I more about nurturing people’s relationships than monitoring people’s behavior like a compliance officer in a corporation.

      When we stand on morals more than a growing relationship, others perceptions of us will trend toward the negative. Since humanity is in the same boat (broken and fallen) it is somewhat hollow to come down on other’s behavior when we as a Christian family struggle as well. Hence why the some of the world rightly calls us hypocrites when we act like Darth Vader Christians.

      Behavior change is never the first thing in faith development and it is flawed to lead with that. It is the relationship itself (with Christ) that changes us. Now compound that with the fact everyone is in different a place with their relationship with God (inside the church). Understanding that, we can gently guide those toward maturity and in extremely rare cases “draw a line in the sand” for poor behavior by individual Christians that affects the Christian community. There are very few instances that I have had to exercise this in 20 years of ministry.

      I do think it is unreasonable to expect people who don’t follow Christ to have the same ethic (as flawed as it is because we are sinners) as myself. However, if I can be an example to others and do it with joy, that is a tremendous witness! Being an example if a far cry from telling others how they should act.

      In Bible study a few weeks back I shared this formula that I heard years ago. Rules without relationship results in rebellion.
      (RULES – RELATIONSHIP = REBELLION). I see how that is true in many applications. When we try to hold people to standards in a critical way and without a trusting relationship, people will not only ignore the instruction, they may willfully do the opposite. Human nature tells us that people do not like being told what to do, even if it the right thing. The only thing that can mitigate that is a caring relationship.

      In terms of sharing unpopular beliefs… well if someone is not open to hearing them then it is a waste of time to share them. Jesus said something about casting your pearls before swine and knocking the sand off you sandals. Not only that, but do you know who are interested in hearing about one’s beliefs even if they are unpopular? People we know who we care about and they care about us. This is related to evangelism. Strangers don’t want to hear us pontificate about our faith but our friends might.

      Thanks for your note and I hope I have answered your questions!

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