“You can’t be a Christian and…”

Things trampled under foot…

I was walking through the dog park recently and happened to look down and see the heart shaped rock in the photo here.
A young woman there with her dog saw me taking a picture and kind of smiled. Because it’s really like a big doggie toilet there. I couldn’t remember the word for heart in Hungarian (sziv, pronounced “seev”, in case you ever need to know. You’re welcome.) so I showed her the photo I had just taken on my phone. I still don’t know if she saw what I saw.

I don’t know why it caught my attention and then my interest so much, this not-even-exactly-heart-shaped-rock in the middle of a dog toilet. But as it did, the phrase “trample under foot” was kind of bouncing around in my head.

I went home and looked that phrase up in the Bible and when I found it in the 10th Chapter of Hebrews I read that chapter (and some before and some after) over and over during the next few days.

The verse with the phrase I was thinking of is this, verse 29 of Chapter 10:
“How much worse punishment do you think will he deserve, the one having trampled under foot the Son of God, and having esteemed as ordinary the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and having insulted the Spirit of grace?”

Lots of religious words, but putting it simply, in the context of that verse, it’s talking all about the continual sacrifices for sin that the priests were commanded to make versus the once and for all time sacrifice that paid the debt of our sin by the death of Jesus Christ.

Specifically, this verse here is talking about it’s not so much the actual sacrifices for sin that is the problem. But rather it is the underlying reliance on the ability of our own efforts to somehow make us right before God which – by necessity – then is in reality our rejection of Christ and His sacrifice. Think about that for a minute.

Because either his sacrifice is enough or there is something else we need to do.

Jesus and…

Either “for by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”, (as verse 14 of this same chapter shows) or we look to our own efforts to make ourselves righteous and therefore “insult the Spirit of grace”.

I’m not talking about obedience. Obedience comes in the context of our relationship with God and is just a natural outpouring wanting to please the One who has loved us so much. A husband buys his wife her favorite flowers because he knows she loves them and he loves her and he wants to make her happy, not so that she will love him, but because he knows she already does, and he loves her, and wants to show it. Jesus said “Since you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Many translate that first word as “if”, making it seem as a requirement to prove your love. But the better translation is “since”, implying responsive reaction.)

So what was the result when the religious people of Jesus’ day were relying on their own efforts to make themselves good in God’s eyes? They trampled under foot the Son of God, they insulted the Spirit of grace and in another place it says that “they rejected the chief cornerstone – Jesus”.

The Apostle Paul went on to say that “For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love”. What?!? Circumcision was THE way that God’s people were set apart from the pagans! You couldn’t be a Jew (which was what the first Christians were) if you weren’t circumcised. But here the Apostle Paul, the very one that God chose to write the bulk of the New Testament is saying is saying…no, it means nothing. Circumcision means nothing – only faith expressing itself in love.

And we read these things and think, ok, but that was them. We don’t do that now. I don’t do that. Neither the requirement of circumcision or anything else. I don’t add on to Jesus’ death and resurrection anything that I have to do to be right in God’s eyes. Are you sure?

One time I was in the middle of a misunderstanding with someone and I asked them if they thought there was even .0001% chance that there were wrong. Maybe they had a blind spot to something and weren’t seeing it as they should. A reasonable suggestion, right? Nope. Absolutely not. Not possible. Would they be willing to talk to God about it and just see if maybe He would want them to see something from a different perspective? No “I won’t even pray about that because I know I’m right.” Seriously? Seriously. That was their straight-faced response.

As funny as it may seem I don’t laugh when I remember that conversation, I’m very sad. I’m sad for two reasons. Of course, I’m sad for them because although this person is very religious and does lots of good works in the name of Christ, I am fearful that they don’t know what it means to truly trust in Jesus and Jesus alone to make them right with God. When Jesus has done it all, it’s not fearful to consider all that I have not done, or done wrong. Jesus has me covered and my salvation is solid in him so I can look at the places where I am weak, because I know that He is strong.

The other reason this makes me sad is because I’m sure, although I haven’t used those exact words, that there are points in my life where I have been (or currently am?!) SURE that my perspective is right! And maybe I’m not so bold as to declare it exactly as this person did, but I prove that I’m sure that I’m right by the fact that I don’t sit before God, as the psalmist did, and ask Him to “search me, oh God, and know my ways. Try me and know my thoughts. And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” In other words – “Hey God, would you show me my blind spots and correct me? I know I have them, we all do. Please show me, God.”

There’s no way a person can be a Christian and…

But too often I, (and maybe you?) are sure that there are certain things that that we need to do to be right before God. And before you protest and say “not me! I don’t think that way!” Let me put it another way. Are there things that you think that there is NO WAY a person could be a Christian if they think or act a certain way? It’s just the other side of the coin. And it has sadly become a common phrase – “No one can be a Christian and – ….fill in the blank.”

Other than rejecting Jesus Christ as fully man but without sin, God come in human form, and that because God so loved the world Jesus came to suffer and die and resurrect on the third day to pay our debt of sin and take away the power of sin and death and reconcile us to God for all who call upon His name by grace through faith….. what else is there? There are other things that are important, but for salvation, this is The Good News, there is no other.

There are many social problems in the world that the Bible makes clear are sin. And Christians, as people of the Word, agree on those points. What is often not clear is how to solve these problems. Some will seek to regulate in a punitive way these sinful actions, other will want to deal with the root cause and work to eliminate the problem that way. Some will do both. The Bible gives only little or no instructions as to exactly which path we should use to deal with many (if not most?) problems in society.

Instead the Bible offers wisdom, and we desperately need to seek that wisdom in regards to those issues that are with little or no instructions regarding how they can be resolved. With a healthy fear of God, knowledge of the word, and walking in the grace, love and mercy of God for ourselves and all others, we are free to choose any approach that we come to the conclusion is how God is leading us to address sin in the public sphere. For many things where the Bible is silent there is not ONE RIGHT ANSWER.

Ultimately the answer of the new birth in Christ is the only true answer to all questions, but even once people are born again it doesn’t mean our communities still don’t need to figure out how to deal with collecting and processing garbage in their neighborhoods, or speed limits to keep streets safe for children crossing, or other more emotional and therefore volatile issues. As much as we would like to say “all or nothing” statements that “you can’t be a christian and….” there are so very many things in this life that – according to scripture – we cannot say definitively. Agree that something is wrong, yes. Agree on how to deal with that point, often times, no. There we must agree to disagree.

Keep the main things main…

So back to the sort-of-kind-of-heart shaped rock in the dog park. Our dog park is, sadly, not grass but gravel and rocks of all sizes. If you were rock hunting there (which I don’t recommend, ewwwww) there are many rocks to draw your attention. Some are sharp, some have been rounded by all the constant dogs and owners walking over them. Some shine when it rains…and so on and so on. And normally I don’t notice them at all. Because that’s not why I go there. I go there to keep my eye on my dog and make sure she plays well, to clean up after her, etc.

But if I had come there strictly to find a heart shaped rock and was distracted by ALL these other rocks, and people, and dogs, etc., I would have walked right over that rock. I would have missed the very thing I was there to find. I would have trampled it under foot.

You get it. Dear Christian…let’s not you or I get distracted by good things, or personal convictions, or even wisdom for resolution of problems to cause us to trample over the grace of God in our pursuit to have the security of an iron clad argument against things that we are against or that make us afraid. Don’t be used by the enemy to do satan’s job – accuse other christians. Satan is called the Accuser of the brethren, that’s his job. Instead of saying “You can’t be a christian and …..”, why not ask that person why they think or act like they do? You may find that you agree on more than you think and can work together to discover new solutions that are neither “all” or “nothing” but that reflect both the holiness and love of God. Because… “neither circumcision” (or insert your religious proof of faith here) “matters for anything. The only thing that matter is faith working itself out in love. “ (Galations 5:6) So let’s work it out, believers…let’s work things out in love.

2 comments

  1. a big AMEN to that. but please be absolutely sure it’s a rock before putting it in your mouth… er, i mean pocket. “what has it got in its pockets?” poop

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