Friday, March 29, 2019

Community Accountability

Yesterday, we looked at how one man's actions can be a curse on the entire community of God, particularly a man who is arrogant and doesn't think his actions have any consequences because he "believes" in God and even professes as much. 

A lot of Christians think that means that we should be super-concerned with what everyone else is doing, to the extent that it's necessary for us to codify Christian ethics into cultural law. We push for the same law for everyone, a law that honors God, to protect ourselves, but that's not at all what that means. 

The people of God have never been held accountable for what the secular culture does; they have only been held to their own actions. 

The surrounding nations were sacrificing their children by fire, but God never told Israel they had to pay for that sin. Rather, He said they were not to engage in it themselves. The capturing nations ate unclean foods, but Daniel and his friends were not punished for what others ate; they were only accountable for what they ate, so they asked for a special diet that pleased their God. 

Lot lived in wicked Sodom, and God was bent on destroying that city for its sins. But He did not destroy Lot, even though Lot lived there, because Lot did not participate in the sins of that city. Rather, God warned Lot about what was going to happen to that place and gave him both ample time and express directions to get out of there before the fire rained down. 

Over and over again, it's clear: God's people are responsible for what God's people do, not for what the world does. So legislating our morality doesn't bring us any closer to what God desires from us. What He desires from us is that we choose for ourselves to live holy, righteous lives. 

It puts us at odds sometimes with our world, increasingly more as we get into more and more secular times. Just look at what happened when the United Methodist Church recently changed its stance on homosexuality/the LGBTQ community within the church. There was a huge outcry, although it's important to know that they weren't just making that decision for the church in America; it was a decision for the church worldwide, including in many places that don't have the same cultural pressure as we do. 

But even though the church made this decision for itself, it did not then try to change the world in which it lives. It did not go out protesting and writing legislators and working to get any laws (or lack thereof) changed. What it did was declare its own position for its own accountability before God. 

And it's a reminder for all of us, because we need to keep in mind how much we let our culture guide us. It was the world outside of America that led the UMC toward this decision, a world where beliefs are different. Where laws are different. Where culture is different. It reminds us what we're beholden to and what we aren't when we remember that others don't live in the same world that we do, but they're trying to live with the same faith. This helps us shape our faith boldly, accountable truly to God and not to our secular pressures. 

Because what's what's holy. It's not holy here or there, not in this place or that, but in every place. It's the right thing because it's the right thing. It's God-honoring because it's God-honoring. It doesn't depend upon culture or what's happening outside the walls of our churches; it rests solely upon what is in our hearts. 

And what should be in our hearts is living a life pleasing to the Lord. For this alone, we are accountable. No matter what the rest of the world does. 

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