Saturday, July 08, 2006

Same but Different

At the heart of the Pharisees “separatism” was the idea that they were different than other people. Of course, by “different” they meant “better.”

Jesus seems to accept the “sinners” and even identify with them. However, this wouldn’t have much significance if he wasn’t clearly different from them in some important way. If Jesus were just another “sinner,” his presence would be unremarkable. So Jesus identified with “sinners” (“I am the same as you.”) while maintaining his distinctiveness (“I am different than you are.”).

This theme of “same but different” runs throughout the Bible. (A more technical term could be “continuity and discontinuity.”) The Gospel is the same as the Law in many respects, yet something entirely different. The resurrection body has several things in common with the earthly body, but is something brand new. (Jesus’ resurrection body had scars from his crucifixion.) Those who are in Christ are called “saints” (literally, “holy ones”) even though they still exhibit many characteristics of “carnality.”

So what does this have to do with radical hospitality?

If we are going to practice the radical hospitality of Jesus, then
we must identify with the outcasts while exhibiting qualities that clearly show we are significantly different.

What should these qualities be? Some Christians have defined these qualities by
what they wear (or don’t wear). Other Christians have defined these qualities by the things they don’t do.

I would suggest that the only important visible difference between those in the Body of Christ and those outside should be the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Unfortunately, many outside the Body of Christ have more of these qualities than many within the Body of Christ. This should not be!

  • We have Christians who think that defending the truth (as they see it) is "being kind" even if it involves personal attacks and harsh language.
  • We have Christians who think that beating people over the head with the truth of the gospel is "being compassionate" because "their eternal destinies are at stake."
  • We have Christians who think that fighting the culture wars is more important than loving people the way they are right now.
But on the other hand, some Christians have taken relevance so far that they engage in crude and unwholesome behavior themselves. (They use language that Paul condemns in Ephesians 5:4, for example.) They have become like undercover cops who break the law in order to win the trust of the criminals they are trying to arrest.

As Christians we must love people with God’s radical love. And we can do that without copying every one of their behaviors.
We must be the same, yet different.

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”

4 comments:

Keith.Drury said...

Your writing always informs and it convicts me--thanks for both!

The Hungarian Luddite said...

Very, very true.

Beign raised as, and pastoring for years as, a far, far, far right wing fundamentalist Baptist has left me with a very confused mind at times. Things become so fixed in my mind that it is hard to differentiate between the Holy Spirit and my legalistic past.

I look back on it now and I see all the rules but little of the fruit. Everyone was "keeping the law" but there was little graciousness. It is no wonder most people consider fundamentalism "mean spirited." (lacking greatly, at times, in the fruit of the Spirit.)

I am convinced the greatest battle lies inward. Perhaps the Catholics were on to something when they spoke of "mortal" sins.......those sins that eat us laive inside and destroy our very being.

Pastor Rod said...

Keith,

You're largely to blame for the nature of my writing. You are the one who infected me with the disease commonly know as “being a writer.” Thanks for your encouragement over the years. And thanks for stopping by.

Rod

Pastor Rod said...

Bruce,

Thanks for your valuable contribution to this discussion. It's good to see that your blog is back up.

God Bless,

Rod