Sunday, February 27, 2011

Week #8 James 1:21 "Love God, Love Others"

"Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you."

Nobody ever said that living the Christian life (or the life of faith, regardless of the religion) was politically correct or popular. It never has been. It never will be.

Take this verse from the book of James, for instance. even suggest that our prevailing culture contains elements of "moral filth" and "evil" is to, at best, have others roll their eyes at us. At worst, it is to be sneered at, insulted, beaten, and generally ex-communicated from "regular" society.

Isn't this verse, and its moral charge to us, the fodder for late night comedians and their Christian stereotypes? Never mind the TV comics, how about our neighbors, co-workers, family members and (in my case) fellow theatre artists who dismiss the Christian faith as silly, close-minded, bigoted and out-moded?

This is nothing new. This attitude towards the people of God has been around....well, since there has been a people of God. Remember, Noah was a preacher of righteousness, but never won any popularity contests. Other prophets of the LORD were beaten, cast out and some were killed for their message. Joseph was thrown into a pit and sold into slavery by his own brothers for speaking forth God's prophecy.

So for me, a 21st century American believer, to live out this charge from James, is to live IN this world, but not be subject TO this world. What does this mean for me? It's not easy to explain, but here goes:

I live IN this world, with all its moral and intellectual content that either dishonors God or refuses to acknowledge He even exists.

I also live in a world that contains people who desperately need to know Him. These people will never have a shred of hope of meeting God if I don't invite them into my life.

So, I must meet people where they are, not expect them to come to where I am. That means meeting them in their world, the same world that denies God and might even ridicule His followers.

So, I the individual and we the Body of Christ, must join them, non-judgementally and on terms they can understand and even enjoy (remember Jesus enjoying meals with the tax collectors and sinners?). BUT (here's the punchline...) we don't have to adopt the values and thoughts of the world they live in, in order to invite them into our lives.

This also means that I choose not to recoil from the sin in the world, because, after all, I'm a sinner, too. I can call out sin for what it is: missing the mark of God's righteousness, but I don't have to lay judgmental attitudes on others. I just have to lift up Jesus (and His word planted in me) and love others.

So...I do want to get rid of moral filth and evil within my heart. That's God's work in me. And what about the evil within others who deny Him? Well, that's God's work as well. I just need to love others in their world, and let that love lead them to search for God. I'll let Him do the rest.

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