Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Live and Let Live

Even if it's true that sin is not relative - that sin is sin regardless of who is doing it - there's a notion in our world that we can't hold others to a standard they don't agree to. That is, we can't make anyone else live by our convictions. So, then, the Amish might say that if the English want to live on the grid and drive cars, then so be it. The actions of others do not reflect our own righteousness.


Except that God has always held His people to a communal standard, not a personal one. We are tempted to think that since Jesus came and the Bible says things like, "each man will pay for his own sins," then the communal nature of being God's people is gone; all that matters now is what individuals do and that individuals come together to worship. 

But I don't think it's that easy. So much of what God calls us to do has to do with how we treat one another. And if God's emphasis is on one anothering, even in the time of Jesus, then it's foolish to say that He's done away entirely with the communal ethic. And, of course, we know that we still hold to a communal ethic when it comes to our churches. We talk about our church as one body and decide who we, collectively, want to be in our community. 

And the truth is that everyone holds others to a standard set of convictions. In our "secular" culture, we call these "laws." (We call them laws sometimes in the Bible, too, but that's not an accurate reflection of what they really are.) The truth is that we have come together as a people and decided what we believe is right and what we believe is wrong, and we have put what is wrong into a codified body of law and we hold one another accountable to that standard. 

If you break that standard, you are subject to punishment. Correction. Justice. Whatever you want to call it. 

There is not a time when we look at a case and decide, "Well, we said that it is wrong to rob someone at gunpoint, but that was something that we decided for ourselves. Since you aren't us, it might be okay that you robbed someone at gunpoint." No. We said it's wrong to rob someone at gunpoint. Period. No matter the justification you want to put on it. No matter whether you believe in our gun laws or not. No matter whether you would call yourself a believer in our system of justice or not. If you rob someone at gunpoint, you're going to jail. That's all there is to it. 

So this idea that we think there is some kind of righteousness in saying that we don't hold others to our's baloney. We do, as a people, hold others to standards because we know that standards are important. 

Yes, you say, but we can't hold them to our religious standards. This is an argument we're hearing a lot in our day, and we've talked about it in this space before. "Stop trying to legislate your morality. Stop trying to inject your religion into politics." But the truth is that everyone in politics brings their morality with them. Everyone in politics brings their religion with them, even if their religion doesn't have something called a "god." 

We are all guided by a belief system, by what we believe in, and it's not at all possible for us to ever leave that at the door. Nor is there such a thing as a "generic" non-biased belief system, some foundational thing we all believe just because we're human. As much as science and humanism want us to believe that humanism is the default - that it is what we would all naturally believe if we were not "clouded" by religion - humanism and science are religions in an of themselves. They are belief systems established on a fundamental trust in the object of their affects - science or humans. 

Thus, we would be liars if we said we never have a standard for others to live by in our society. The truth is, we always have a standard for others to live by in our society. If we choose not to make that standard for others our own religious standard, that just means that at some level, we don't actually believe that our standard is the best possible one. 

That's something else entirely to think about. But we won't do that now. 

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