Tuesday, October 04, 2005I'm currently taking a class on early modern political philosophy. There's no way to study this period - late 15th through early 18th century - without discussing Luther and the Reformation. So I've been reading a bit of this lately and I've got a few thoughts.
Of course we all recognize that Luther's main contention was that salvation did not arrive by merit, but was a gift of God by grace alone. Our works, though oft times helpful, will not save us. So far so good. Yet one criticism I've often heard about a lot of Christians today is that we're too often hit over the head with the notion that we must do X or Y in order to merit God's favor. I realize that some people do believe that, but even growing up Southern Baptist it wasn't an idea I heard too often.
But let me tell you what I did hear often. As a teenager, I never heard that God's love for me was dependant upon anything I said or did. Yet I was often told by youth speakers/evangelists and occasionally by my youth pastor that being a believer meant that certain things were expected of me. And this is true in a basic sense; I agree with Bonhoffer that the call to believe is the call to follow. Yet as immature teenagers we were often told that being a Christian meant automatic changes in behavior. Of course there were the big things: sex, pornography, drug use, alcohol and tobacco abuse, cussin'. Those sort of things. I also heard, on more than one occasion, that my faith in Christ would mean I never laughed at an off-color joke. Being a Christian meant that we wanted to witness to everyone and anyone, anytime and anywhere.
The problem with this thinking is that it never really, truly explains why. Why go on a mission trip? Why do this or stop doing that? We were told - usually by youth speakrs who tried desperately to appear cool - that being a Christian meant a lot in terms of behavior but rarely was it explained to us. Yes we had come to Christ and we were to live for Him (indeed, we wanted to), but we knew little about Him. These youth speakers were not great expository preachers. They did not know much in the way of theology. Many times our own youth pastors did not. And so we were left believing with a gap. Yes God loves us and Christ died for us and we believe in that. But before we make the leap to mission work and the Good Behavior club, we need something tangible to wrap our heads around, explaining why we should seek to glorify God and honor Him in all that we do.
Maybe I'm just a book nerd and I think this sort of thing helps me in my own walk, but I've got to imagine that it helps someone else, too. This is terrbily jumbled, I know, but I'll do more with it later.