Friday, October 1, 2021

A Matter of Conscience

If you want to know how thick this "interfaith" idea is in our culture, here's a true story: when I posted yesterday's blog to social media with the title "interfaith" and the short description "standing with our brothers and sisters," Facebook automatically asked me if I would like to create an invitation and invite others to my event. 

There is no event. 

But neither are we finished with this conversation. We started yesterday by talking about how God never tells His people to help facilitate the worship of other nations or to join them at their worship sites or to invite them into the public square for their sacrifices. But if you are Bible-savvy, you might be saying...wait a minute. What about Paul?

Paul talks about living in a pluralistic world. He writes about how we ought to engage those around us who don't believe in our God. There is one specific passage that comes to mind for most when we're talking about an idea like this, and it is that scene where Paul talks about eating food sacrificed to idols when you go to your friend's house. If it doesn't bother your conscience, he says, then go ahead and eat.

Many Christians today have used this as a foundation verse for interfaith engagement. They claim that it is not a problem for their conscience to pray with a Muslim or to meditate with a Buddhist or to do yoga with a Hindu. It doesn't bother them. It doesn't shake their faith in Christ. It doesn't challenge their own firm belief. So...they should do it. It's part of being a good friend (and, as we saw yesterday, a "good citizen" - of this world). 

This is where the line is so delicate, so thin. This is where it's so hard to talk about something like this because we are dancing on such a narrow space and it could almost come off as hypocrisy if we aren't careful about how we articulate ourselves here. 

Paul is right. We should absolutely be friends with persons of other faiths and even persons of no faiths. We should, if our conscience allows us, feel comfortable in their homes, and we should not refuse invitations to fellowship or fraternize with them because they do not worship the same way that we worship. But look at why Paul says this is.

Paul says this is the case because we know how empty their worship is. We can eat food sacrificed to idols by someone else because we know that idols are nothing at all. We know that they are just statues, just superstitions. We know they do not have real power and they are not real gods. This is far different from the kind of "interfaith cooperation" that our culture is trying to press us into and that we are dangerously close to adopting (if we haven't already) as a Christian "virtue" that not only affirms worship of gods other than our God, but even encourages it. 

And look at what Paul doesn't say. Paul doesn't say that we should go to our friends' houses and participate in their rituals. He doesn't say that we should help them offer their sacrifices to their gods. He doesn't say that we should join them in their acts of worship. He doesn't say that we should go to their worship sites and their temples. He doesn't say that we should go out into the market with them and help them promote their meat as sacred because they sacrificed it to their idols. He doesn't say we should acknowledge, let alone affirm, that their meat is somehow special because of what they've done with it. 

This sounds harsh, I know. But God is a jealous God; He has told us that Himself. And His entire testimony is that He doesn't want His people to waste time with false worship, and He doesn't want His people to get trapped in thinking it's just as valid as the worship that they offer Him. 

This is the line we're dancing on, and it's the line we're dancing on all the time - not just in issues of faith. This is "Love the sinner without affirming the sin." This is being a brother to a person in need but not enabling him or her. This is believing in the sacredness of every human being as created in the image of God while recognizing that some of us are further from God right now than others. While realizing that not everyone is on their way back. It's sticky, and it's hard. And it feels mean and anti-Christian and not-loving. 

But what's really not letting others live outside of the love of Christ and especially if we not only let them believe, but lead them to believe, that it's totally okay to do so. And, as many Christians are right now professing for some strange reason, that God even loves them for doing so. 

It's complicated even further by a couple of other little problems, a couple of other truths that we haven't figured out what to do with yet. More on that Monday. 

(Again, if you're angry right now, hold on. You might be even more angry later. :) )

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