Friday, February 19, 2010

What It Means To Be A Christian Before God and Not Before Man

In the light of the recent public outcry and shock over the caning of three Muslim women who voluntarily submitted themselves to the punishment handed out by the Shariah court, I have nothing to say except to respond with the Christian perspective of the meaning of repentance before the Almighty God. This post was written back in August 2007:

Most Christians struggle with the question of what it means to be a Christian in the eyes of the church, in the eyes of fellow Christians and non-Christians. They are at pains to create the right impression of what a good Christian ought to do, say, think and behave. Little do they understand that in the eyes of our Lord, these are not genuine spiritual questions but facile questions of the world.

The spiritual journey of man begins when we ask questions that are beyond our ability or powers to answer and only through constant struggle, unceasing wrestling with God will we find an answer that speaks to our innermost being. So deep down, when a surface Christian asks what he/she should do to appear like a good, Godly Christian, he/she is ultimately seeking his/her own happiness and trying to fit his/her life into the visible realm of a typical Christian family. In other words, these people are trying to put on what can be seen from the outside as Christian but internally they are just a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

The only litmus test to ascertain whether a person is a genuine Christian and a disciple of Christ is the one test which our Lord Jesus gave in John 13:25: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” That is the true mark of a Christian. Yet there is a great paradox in Jesus’ command: “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” He is saying we are to love unconditionally one another and love with the same intensity, the same passion with which He loved us (“As I have loved you.”).

But we all know that this type of love will always be tested: True genuine love that is flowing naturally from an eternal spring can only occur when we have Christ in us and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. (1 John 3:16: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers…This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.”) All other attempts to live a life of genuine love will be based on our fleshly desire to fulfill a duty, an obligation, an external rule that has no true appeal to our own selfish hearts.

So Jesus is saying that we have to love one another and yet at the same time, in order to do that in practice, we have to clean up our own hearts, give up the fleshly desire to be a happy Christian or the notion that God’s purpose in putting us on earth is for us to be “happy” Christians living in comfortable homes, doing some church work and attending church regularly. (I can well imagine a Christian who sacrifices his life for another with deep joy and peace in his heart but I find it hard to imagine a Christian “happily” sacrificing his life for another.)

Just look at what the true Christians in the Scriptures went through: Paul, Daniel, Jacob, Joseph, Elijah and all the apostles of Jesus. Did they live a comfortable, orderly life of getting cut-and-dried answers to their spiritual problems and dilemmas by asking their pastors, reading some inspiring books, attending a prayer rally or surfing some Christian sites? Were they superficially asking themselves “am I in the right books of God?” or “Is my church in the right standing with God?” and seeking these answers through external appearances and external approval from their fellow Christians? I really wonder had they been given all the technology and the resources in the world in their time whether they will take the quick-and-easy way out or would they still experience their dark nights of the soul regardless of the external environment. Would they seek to impress the public and their fellow Christians or would they seek direct answers from God through prayerful dialogue and internal baptism of fire?

The reason why Christians today no longer have any genuine arguments with God anymore is because our consciences are no longer sensitive, no longer shocked by the horrors of sin, of hatred and of violence that is burning human society each day. We have become so immune to the horror and senselessness of sin to the extent that we can no longer distinguish between right from wrong in a world where wrong is puffed up as right and right is brushed off as wrong.

The only recompense (our sacrificial payment to the Lord for our immoral indifference) is to go back to the Lord and tell Him how we feel, our hurts, frustrations of not being able to love unconditionally and disgust with our sinful hearts. And then be quiet, like Job at the end of his dialogue with God, and wait for Him to provide the peace that passeth all understanding, the vision that puts every jigsaw puzzle, every wrong in its rightful place. And this epiphany of the soul through wrestling with God is the whole essence of being a Christian before God. By allowing Him to work through our inner struggles, we are allowing Him to melt away the selfishness, the things of the flesh in us. And through this melting process, we are refined in the way which He wants to refine us.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

In this polarised world and country such as Malaysia, it is difficult for people from different faiths to look at the other's problems and discern any universal theme or common moral issue.

Only great novelists such as Dostoeyvski can see through the religious veneer of man and see the human soul's struggles with the forces that rage inside him.

Most real conflicts in society are spiritual in nature. It is when we choose to externalise our conflicts into what is good conduct and bad conduct that the inner man seems to have escaped from true repentance from his own sins.

Jeremiah said...

One of he most frequent misonceptions I read from the blogs is that non-Muslims cannot comment on matters of Islamic ruling or Islamic issues.

I presume this is because:

1. They are not muslims
2. They have not read the Koran or are taught the right way of being a Muslim
3. They are not under Shariah law.

All three are invalid because:

1. Every person born and created by God (be he a Muslim, Christian or Jewish God) is a human being first.
2. Each human being is entitled to the right of freedom to live n peace and according to the civil law.
3. Any moral law that is broken will be judged by God and the person's conscience.
4. The existence of religious precepts is to ensure that we know what is wrong and right.
5. According to our conscience and all decent religions, no woman or child or man for that matter should be caned or stoned for drinking alcohol, stealing or committing adultery or fornication.

Who will punish? Definitely, the sinners will face the consequences of their actions which is the fruit of sin: broken famiies, curses, revenge, bittenerness, etc

The wages of sin is death, and that death is spiritual death. No amount of physical punishment is going to cure any man of the love for sin.

Anonymous said...

If you talk about universal values like stealing & telling lies, ok, we are all against it. But we cannot say to a Hindu that it's silly not to eat beef when millions are starving in India. They believe that the cow is god. Same for Muslims; there is provision for caning, so what right have you to comment? Are you saying that the religion is wrong? We also cannot tell the Christians that it is illogical to believe that God exists as 3 persons.

Jeremiah said...

Anonymous II,

Your examples are not relevant to what I meant:

For all we care as human beings, a hindu can (hypothetically) believe a stone is God and it is none of our business.

But the moment he believes he has the right to use the stone to hurt another person (whether Hindu or non-hindu), all conscientious people will rise up against this violence.

You need to draw the line between religious intepretation of how to execute a penalty for sin and the most important, overuling law of loving others. To have mercy and forgiveness is a higher practise/good than sacrifice and punishment. Whether from God's or mankind's point of view.

El Jefe said...

It is really funny when none of you have any clues what the philosophy of the vedanta means! No hindu thinks that a cow or stone is god.

Anyway, thats the beauty of ignorance. It keeps the mind sheltered between what is real and what is not.

Jeremiah said...

El Jefe

Thank you for commenting. Sorry if my example caused any offense. My point is that everyone can believe what they wish to believe (including reincarnation and the birth/rebirth cycle of all creatures). This seems to me harmless to other members of society.

In fact, the Buddhist teaching that we reap what we sow is also taught in the Bible. This principle is the same as cause and effect. Problem with reincarnation theory is that the cause becomes the effect which becomes the cause.

For Christians, there is only one divine cause - the creator and His creativity and majesty is unparalled. No man or living creature can create what God has done even though we can try to control our bodily functions.

yes, ignorance may be beautiful but the truth will come sooner than we think.

The world as we know will be ending very soon with earthquakes, floods, financial storms and a global government that will arise as the only solution to our problems. Beware of a coming world leader promoting some new religion, or a fusion of all religions.

All this was foretold by Jesus and revealed in the last book of the Bible. Many of these predictions have already come true.

Take note and ask yourself what is the endgame as prophecied by all other religions. Have they come to pass?

Do You Want To Know God?

Do You Want To Know God?
Say this: Heavenly Father, I have sinned against You. Forgive all my sins. I believe Jesus died on the cross for my sins and rose again. I give you my life to do as You wish. I want Jesus to come into my life & heart. In Jesus's name. Amen