Thursday, October 7, 2021

A Holistic Ethic

As we wrap up our discussion of Christian ethics (for now), we look at the heart of the matter and that is, the Christian heart. 

The truth is that on any given issue, we have multiple Christian ethics that we must hold together in however we choose to respond. 

For example, no, we are not called to be an interfaith people; that is a cultural ethic, not a Christian one. We, as Christians, are called to be bearers of the way, truth, and life, and we cannot do that if we are standing in the marketplace pretending that we are just one valid option out of many and that all of the other religions have something to offer that maybe we don't. Jesus would never approve of such a thing. 

Nor would He approve, though, of our standing in the marketplace and shouting everything, and everyone, else down. Nor would He approve, though, of our becoming an arrogant and aggressive people. Our Christian ethic, as much as it calls us to truth, also calls us to humility. And graciousness. And hospitality. 

And that's how we find ourselves as a people who must be welcoming to Afghan refugees, for example, and others in our community, while not pretending that their religion is somehow fundamentally the same or just as valid as ours. It's how we find ourselves in the houses of and around the tables of those with whom we have religious disagreements - not because we affirm of their religious ethic but because we must holistically live our own. It's how we find ourselves standing in the Areopagus as one voice, yes, but a voice of authority. 

Perhaps it is here that we find our greatest example of what it means to live as a Christian people in an interfaith culture. This is exactly what Paul was doing in the public square, where all of these ideas were competing for attention. He stood there among them. He did not chase the other voices out of the public square. He did not shout them down. He did not discredit them. Rather, he told the people that the thing they were looking for that none of these other ideas had given them was found in his God. He explained to them how his God was fundamentally better than what they were encountering in the culture all around them, which included the worship of many other gods - all gods that the peoples of the area fully believed in. But Paul did not affirm these worshipers; he humbly, graciously outdid them. Simply by showing the truth of who our God truly is. 

And we have to mention something else that Paul didn't do - he didn't invite the representatives of all of the other gods to this place. He wasn't putting on some kind of demonstration or hosting a religions fair. He wasn't even attending one. He was simply meeting the peoples at the places where they already were and speaking truth to them - a truth that he knew would captivate them all on its own. 

This is what we, too, must do.

Our Christian ethic requires that we meet others where they are, that we do not force anyone out of the public square but that we also do not invite them there, that we respond humbly and graciously with a truth that speaks for itself. And actually, this takes most of the strife out of it because we aren't constantly pushing back against the world; we're simply standing our ground and not letting this world move us. 

I hope this discussion of Christian ethics has been helpful for you. We looked at a few ideas - life, death, and fellowship. We've twisted a few of the questions to ask not just what we should believe, but how we should live it, and we've drawn some lines between culture and Christianity that should help us evaluate what we're doing. Next week, we'll move on to something else. Probably. 

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