Saturday, October 30, 2021

Not worth believing. . .

In a class about what we Lutherans believe, teach, and confess, the statement was heard, "We don't really believe that, do we?"  In most cases, such a statement is not referencing an opinion of the teacher but the clear teaching of God's Word.  Like the time somebody came complaining that a Bible study leader has said that those who divorce and remarry make themselves and their wives adulterers.  When I say I did not think that the the Bible study leader said that, the person protested.  "I was there.  I heard him say it."  "No," I responded, "you misunderstand. I did not say that the words did not come out of his mouth.  What I said was that I was pretty sure they were Jesus' words.  Jesus was the one who said it."  Well, that made it worse.  Why would Jesus say something so offensive and so hurtful?

If it is not offensive, it is probably not worth believing.  That is not a hermeneutical principle but it is a solid statement.  The problems of the past might have been taking the Word too seriously or out of context but the problems of the day are not those.  The problems of the present are that we do not take Scripture seriously at all and are not sure we care.  Just because Scripture says it does not impact our belief.  We have to agree and to find it meaningful before we believe it.  The end result is seldom a radical faith but rather an innocuous and inoffensive faith -- one big umbrella in which truth is overruled by feelings and doctrine subject to reason or the emotion of the moment.  

The sad reality is that so much of what passes as a popular idea of Christianity today is not worth believing at all.  It is a strange conflagration of sentiment, whim, fancy, preference, and distance that makes what we believe meaningful but not powerful.  It certainly cannot compel us to restrain our desires or practice self-control over our wants or change our lives.  Its power, most of all, is to confirm us in our preferences, beliefs, and wants.  In the end, we feel better about ourselves -- sins, prejudices, biases, and victimhood.  Oh, sure, we are still subject to the woke ideals that end up having more authority in our lives than any other external influence (certainly much more than the Bible) but even the woke consciousness has power more over our external self than our internal one.  Even so, we get more kicks out of condemning the past than really looking into a mirror.

Jesus words are too often reasoned away or softened so as not to offend.  That is why we have ended up with birth control that is the norm, with children being optional and not necessarily welcome, with abortion on demand (perhaps more moral than having a child), with marriage easily dissolved by no fault laws, with marriage and family subject to the definition of the moment, with privacy that says whatever you do behind closed doors is fine, with sexual desire that defines us, with gender that has nothing to do with genes or biology, and with self-interest as the most important aspect of life.  Jesus is nice enough but what does He know of the things we want or want to believe?  When we need Jesus and have tried everything else first, Jesus is fine.  But the rest of the time we do better with faith in ourselves.  At least that is how it seems.

If it is not offensive to our sinful hearts and minds and lives, it is probably not worth believing.  Repentance is like that.  It calls to account the things we have thought, the words we have said, and the actions we have taken.  Under the lens of the Law, we cannot avoid responsibility or culpability.  Before the mercy seat where the blood of Christ has been shed, we find not condemnation from God but forgiveness full and free.  But with that forgiveness comes the caution.  Go, and sin no more.  The Holy Spirit teaches us through our sin and by God's forgiveness to recognize temptation before we are trapped in its web and to see the devil where he has worked so hard to him himself.  The Law always offends -- not only when it convicts but even when it teaches.  The Gospel does not explain away sin but forgives it at great cost to God (not with silver or gold but with the Lord's holy and precious body and blood) and then turns around and bestows this absolution freely.  And the Holy Spirit is at work in both so that repentance is born of faith and faith rejoices in the God who absolves and helps us amend those sinful ways.  Perhaps the reality is this.  When the faith no longer offends, it is no longer the faith!

1 comment:

Carl Vehse said...

"Jesus was the one who said it.... Jesus words are too often reasoned away or softened so as not to offend."