Monday, March 7, 2016

Being Good, for Goodness Sake

If you would ask most people about their spiritual condition they would respond in a way that was related to the goodness they perceive within themselves.  Generally speaking, everyone ranks themselves as being a fairly good person.  On the grand measuring scales of "Walking Old Ladies Across the Street VS Tripping Old Ladies" most people feel that things are heavily weighted in favor of them being quite good people.  And SHOCKINGLY most people rarely would stack the cosmic karma scales of their life to be heavier on the "Not Good" side.

Now we all know someone(or many ones) who are themselves not in any way a "good person".  But when it comes to ourselves, we consider it a fairly cut and dry case of being quite good indeed.  Sure, we did that one thing that one time, but...there was a good reason for it...and we won't do it again.   And if God exists he must surely be measuring and evaluating us by the very standards we have accepted on our own behalf...and therefore....we are good to go!

This self-assured self-rigtheousness is a natural philosophical outflow of the moral autonomy of our age.  If WE are the final arbitrers of what is right and good then we can set the standards and provide the weights and measures of evaluation and however it is we set it we obviously will find ourselves on the good side of things.  How illogical would it be for us to create our own self-defined system of morality that we didn't personally agree with and line up with??  Our personal preferences rule the day.  And when we feel "righteous anger" at immoral people it is based upon the standards that we have agreed to as being what is and isn't morally appropriate.

But are we truly morally autonomous?  Is morality simply a constructed and flexible system that bends to the wills of the individuals and groups who seek to employ its paradigm for preferential reasons??

While other, much more smarterer people than I, have delved deep into this topic I will only simply say that if morality is self, or even culturally, constructed, than it is not an absolute morality in any meaningful sense.  What is good today is only perhaps going to be good tomorrow.  If morality is not an immaterial absolute that we can count on then we all just have little self-created kingdoms of preferences and opinions.

So back on the treadmill you go, running hard after that elusive ill defined concept of morality and being good for the sake of being "good" without any promise that it has any actual significance beyond the reach of your own experience.

Philosophically speaking one must hope to no small degree that there really isn't God out there.  If we honestly recognize that we are not able to self-discern absolute morality, yet feel driven to care about morality, we recognize that morality is a burden set upon us.  And the God who is Himself absolute(by definition) assuredly has more stringent standards of morality than that which you place upon yourself.

Recall how you easily recognize the moral failings of those who aren't you, how much more so will an infinite God recognize within yourself?

In response to that we have two popular forms of addressing this disconnect.

Secular Moralism and Religious Legalism

They are basically different sides of the same coin.  An attempt made by the effort and the will to jump through enough hoops to be "good enough".  We set forth tasks and rules by which we can rank how succesful we have been at accomplishing the important task of being as good as we need to be.  But even that "need to be" is hard to pin good really is good enough????

The easiest way we deal with this internal struggle is finding more and more faults in others.  Because, if we are obviously better in our moral choices, lifestyle, and religious practices, than THOSE people, then we must surely be "ok".

But is that really the whole story and our hope?

14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. 
  - Colossians 2:14-17

The message of the Good News is that there IS truth, morality, ethics, value in choices, etc.  AND that we are all falling short.  Now, instead of Jesus offering new and better ways to just be good enough to be good enough, He takes our sin and failures to the cross and nails them there.  The morality that yous sense, and the rules you try to follow, all exist to point to the hope that we have in the finished work of Christ.

Our hope is not found in how good we can be, but in Jesus.  God's love for you is not dependent on how honestly you try to be really good person.  But in Christ, and Christ Alone, you have been made Good for His Goodness' Sake!

Everything else is a promise of new ladders to climb and treadmills to run on.  Christ invites you to stop trying to make yourself good enough, but to rest in His goodness.  Everything flows out of that.

Are you good because you are trying to earn something, or, are you good because He was good to you?  It's a difference that makes all the difference.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

American Exceptionalism and Unexceptional Candidates

Americans love winning.  Second place is first place loser!  Even the way we look at the legacies of people is directly related to what and how they won.  If you are an athlete who retires without a championship we put you on a special list of "Great, but not All Time".  You just need to win!  We don't even care if the victory comes at the end of your career when you aren't even a significant factor(cough cough Peyton Manning).  All that matters is that you are a winner.

A big argument that we keep hearing during the primaries is that we have to support a candidate who will actually win.  And we want to be winners, right?  The opposition is so wrong that just being able to say that they "lost" is worth whatever compromise of conviction we have to make in order to be winners ourselves.  This leads us to a terribly frustrating reality;  We might choose the winning candidate, but we all lose.

When elections become gambling at the track, simply putting our money on the horse we think will win, instead of selecting the individual who deserves our support due to principles, convictions and history, we don't get closer to good leadership, we keep running farther away.  Everytime we have a high quality candidate who can't get off the starting blocks because we are more concerned with winning we move the system farther from where we should be.

"Of two evils, choose neither.  Christians must turn from the endless cycle of voting for the lesser of evils and expecting an unrighteous act to produce a righteous result.  From a communist to a cultist, choosing the lesser of evils is still evil, and never should we do evil so good may come" -Charles Spurgeon

I am no historian, but it seems strange that at some point we stopped voting for what we are convicted by, but by some sort of pragmatic winner takes all mentality.  Politicians know they can lie to us because we will still vote for them....because they will win!!!!!

What about us Christians, how should we approach all of this?  We know that compromise with evil is not God honoring.  Can God use evil rulers for His purposes??  Of course.  Do we deliberately allign ourselves with evil just because it might be useful in some way??  Of course not!!

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. -Philippians 4:8

Can you look at your chosen candidate through the lens of Philippians 4:8 and say, "Now this person fits into this paradigm"?  If not, move on.

But but but Adam(you say...).  The only people who can fit this passage will never win.  And if we don't stop "X" our country will be lost.  What about the children?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

So, dear friend, are you saying that the only way you and I can save our children from Godlessnes and national destruction FOR the sake of God Himself is to collaborate with sinfulness????   What God are you reading about in the Bible....???

Isaiah 14:27 tells us that NOTHING God has planned will be thwarted.   So what if America burns to the ground and the crosses of the churches are pulled down?  Are the purposes and glory of God suddenly extinguished??  God doesn't need us to run around playing politics to "save" the nation through immoral compromise so that maybe, just maybe, one day, at some point in the future, we can make sure that Christian values win the day.

When the Gospel calls us Jesus doesn't say, "Come join the winning team, next election cycle Pilate is totally out!!".  The Gospel is to.... DIE to  yourself, to give up YOUR HONOR, to forgive your ENEMIES and proclaim that the Kingdom that will never End is marching forward and is not waiting on us getting our local politics straightened out.

If Trump wins the election....Jesus still wins.

If Hillary wins the election.....Jesus still wins.

If Chitalu wins the election.....Jesus still wins

The Gospel doesn't invite us to make sure we choose the most likely wordly winner, but to go and die with the King.  Do what is right, and trust that God is still God.