Good Morning Brothers and Sisters…
I know that Holy Week has a wonderful way of erasing the past and resetting us for what lies ahead. Therefore, I decided to start (Pt 5) with where I started (Pt 4), just to reestablish some context.
Everything we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch runs through a filter. There have been times when I looked at a color and thought it was purple, only to be told it was mauve. Times where I smelled something good, only to be told it smelled rotten. Times when I heard something offensive, while others thought it was funny. Apparently, my filter was different than the others. Often enough, these differences in filters are what gives life it’s wonderful diversity, but sometimes these filters become the building blocks of competing world views, and determine our faith and belief system. Some filters are built on ‘characteristics’, and some are built on ‘rights’. What is interesting about filters, is that they can change. The more we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch the same things…the more those things become our filter.
The ‘filter’ of our faith is about ‘characteristics’.
To find some Scripture that talks about the ‘characteristics’ of the faithful is to hand someone the whole Bible and say ‘Read it.’ However, I do want to quote one passage from 2 Peter 1:4-11:
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
St. Peter says in this passage that if we are Christians, then we share in the divine nature. Which means we are ‘supplying’ (vs 5) others with the qualities of our faith. (I highlighted these qualities in the passage above.) If these qualities, or characteristics, are recognizable by others within us, and increasing…then we are not ‘useless’. But, if we lack these characteristics then we have forgotten why we went to the cross in the first place. In other words, if we have forgotten why we went to the cross; to seek forgiveness and empowerment to carry the name and mission of Jesus…then we are useless. Then he says that if we are practicing these characteristics in our life, we will never stumble?? What St. Peter doesn’t mean is that we will never sin. But he does mean that we will never carry the banner and the name of God’s enemy. The question for Christian Americans is, “Are these the qualities and characteristics that we ‘supply’ toward others?”
It is easy to answer this in the broad sense. It is much harder to answer this in the specific sense.
-How do you feel about abortion?
-How do you feel about homosexuality?
-How do you feel about gun control?
Are your initial reactions to these questions about how it affects you, or are they about how they affect others? Did you feel a flash of anger when you read the question, or did you feel remorse? Did you immediately think of passages of Scripture that can be used as a weapon against the topic, or did you think about how Jesus would treat the victims of, or even the proponents of each one? Did you think as an ‘American’ first, or a ‘Christian’ first…? Whatever your reactions were, they point to your ‘filter’. Our ‘filter’ is either about our ‘rights’ that define our citizenship, or they are ‘characteristics’ that define our faith. The overwhelming responses to these subjects that I see by ‘church people’ doesn’t involve love, brotherly kindness, or godliness at all (characteristics), but involves a perceived moral high road and legality (rights). (A ‘perceived moral high road’ is the path taken by the Pharisees as they looked down at Jesus because of their schooling, their tribe, and their station in life. They have the ‘right’ to be moral, or religious, correctly.) This worries me. It has caused me to question my own understanding of faith many times. I am concerned because it seems like ‘American Nationalism’ has become the greatest heresy of our day. A heresy is “belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine”. The key to a good heresy (or damaging heresy) is that the followers of it don’t realize its heretical. They believe they are following what is right. I am worried that a large portion of ‘Christian Americans’ are caught in heresy and truly should be labeled ‘American Christians’.
Their ‘filters’ are ‘American’ first…’Christian’ second. This is heretical. It points the Church away from the will of God and toward the will of the people. I fear this and I pray that I am wrong…