Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Finding Common Ground

The Beginning

We are all working from the broken template. Born into sin, we grasp only to our own experiences, our life journey, and our spiritual growth for landmarks. As such, we tend to preach from where we are. As a younger man and supposed ‘Independent’ (both politically and religiously) I held my arms wide open and welcomed all. I could not imagine an exclusive God and was convinced that all were worthy of approaching the throne. Methodists, Mormons, Islamic, Buddhists, and even the Unbeliever had equal opportunity if they were good people.

I worshiped the god of Political Correctness. I dared not have a belief that was seemingly intolerant or distasteful. Christ was important but I was never quite sure of His place in the grand scheme of things. I mean, He was my Salvation but who was to say He had to be the path for all? It was as though I used Him as an insurance policy. I knew enough to know I needed Him but not enough to proclaim Him to others. Not enough to take a stand and share the gospel. Not enough to get out of the boat and walk on water.

Through it all, I continued a practice that ultimately led me to searching...praying for God’s Will and for His guidance. Searching led me to literature of all kinds. Though I had my hands on many different cultures and religions, including New Age materials, the Holy Spirit guided me. And faced with all of these choices, somehow it was easy to identify the truth. I especially knew something was worth paying attention to if it convicted me. That is the thing about honest truth…it doesn’t discern or adjust itself to fit your wishes, to save your feelings, or to make you feel comfortable. That doesn’t mean that all truth hurts but it certainly can. My old ways of thought were very liberal and the last thing that I would accept is a doctrine or rule possibly being hurtful.

The Change

Within the last 7 years I have traveled so far away from my former beliefs that it is hard to remember them. I gained understanding about Christ and His true significance. I came to understand that Bible was not a suggestion but God’s Word delivered to us. Even where I was convicted of sin, I began making changes instead of excuses and justifications. I had to ask myself questions like: Was I willing to totally submit to God’s Will even if it contradicted my will? And if it contradicted worldly views? Political correctness? And if it made me a possible target for anger and finger pointing? The answers were a solemn yes but for my personality this was harder a task than it seemed. I am a pleaser. I make an art form out of relationships and creating harmony with all. I can get the meanest and most difficult people to open up and let loose.

I cannot actually call my experiences since then, true suffering for Christ. However, I remind myself that Scripture warns of hostility and confrontation when standing for Jesus. I became very exacting and unapologetic. I am on a mission and I have truth and the Son of God behind me. Righteousness, thy name is Edge.

As such, my newfound awakenings and realizations prompted me to share my discovery with those still lost, as I once was. As usual, my intentions and heart were pure. The reality was I tinkered with the line of legalism. I skirted the edge of hypocrisy and ‘holier than thou’ behavior. I found myself holding stones and taking aim at the adulterous woman. Just as Christ stepped in 2000 years ago, He convicted me as well.

What Now?

To proclaim I have now arrived at a place of perfect understanding would be false. I am just at the next place on my journey and have hopefully continued gaining wisdom. My newest mantra is to barrow from both camps to some degree. As a bleeding heart, wimpy Christian I was ineffective to lead others to the truth…having no understanding of it myself. As a die-hard, overzealous Christian I turned people off to the truth by my harsh display of convictions. The only way to attract people to you is to find the middle ground. I do not suggest compromising beliefs but rather your pride. Do you have to be right in order to win one for the Kingdom? If you are faced with being right or having someone come to the Lord…which would you choose? At some point we lose focus of whose representative we are and the game becomes more about my intellect vs. yours.

I still cannot stand the whiny, wimpy liberal approach to Christianity. Christ was not a weakling, hippy that spread seeds of love throughout the land whilst skipping and singing songs. He was a tough, chiseled, carpenter that loved, rebuked, taught, convicted, demanded, and sacrificed.

I no longer can advocate the opposite approach either. To represent Christ as Rambo is just as false. There is a place for emotional response in Christianity. There is a place for tenderness and love. There is a place for common ground. The challenge is getting to that place. I am looking for it and hope to see you there.