Rule number one for being a safe person–not for yourself, but for someone else–you have to give a crap.
Continuing the thoughts on being S.A.F.E. (Overview here), in order to do any good for anybody, you have to be more concerned about them than yourself. This is a basic tenant of Christianity: love one another, do for others as you would like them to do for you, sacrifice, humility, esteem others higher than yourself, start at the lowest seat at the table, The Good Samaritan, the Bible is rife with stories and examples of Godliness demonstrated through valuing others more than ourselves.
Last time, I talked about being Secure. But you can only be secure if you actually care about them. You can only open your doors when you unbar them.
The Easy Part
First, we as Christians have to cut out this habit of labeling people so fixed in our nature. Everybody likes to categorize, but God doesn’t give us that luxury. If Christ indeed died for the whole world, then labeling is counterproductive. So we must see people not as titles, races, or associations, but as people.
Why do I say this is the “easy” part? Because to break labels, all you need to do is interact with them. Talk to them, read what they write, spend some time with them. Find the humanity.
Labeling is unhelpful to Christianity in nearly every way. But as I said, learning new things is the easy part. Un-learning bad habits is far more complicated.
The Big Problem
One of Christianity’s greatest cultural downfalls (if not the greatest) is its desire to protect itself. Whether it was trying to secure legal rights, political status, or just perpetuate certain establishments, the Giant of Christianity lots its way at some point (or many points) by turning its gaze inward and trying to protect its interests.
Last November, millions of Christians voted for a racist, misogynistic, arrogant man because they believed that the future of Christianity depended on the President of the United States, not God. They sought political power to protect their lives, their power, their jobs, their status quo. It only cost them their integrity and their appeal to the non-Christian world.
If Christianity is to survive with any cultural relevance in this country–and others–then it must stop this ridiculous battle for itself. All the outside world sees is a group of jerks fighting for themselves while simultaneously criticizing the world for being selfish and only thinking of its own needs.
But who cares what the world thinks, right? All that matters is what God thinks.
Well…if I’m reading my Bible right, I’d say he’s rather pissed.
Dispelling the Myth of Safety
Scrambling for security is the exact opposite of everything Jesus preached. I’d quote a Bible verse, but there are too many! Grab a Bible and flip it open to any place in the New Testament and you will see the one true norm of Christianity: struggle. Jesus himself, our Lord and model, the being on whom our entire faith rests, allowed himself to downgrade from God to man for the sole purpose of being ignored, ridiculed, tortured, and killed, and then misinterpreted for the rest of time.
Yet he did it.
True, he got something out of it–quite a bit, in fact–but it came through suffering and pain, not laws and force. So why do we fight tooth and nail for power as the world defines it and not as God does?
Yes, we have some guarantees and promises here in this life, but they come from God, not man. So why do we panic and compromise our values for the promises of men when our One True Source can’t be bought, corrupted, or taken away?
Our reward is not in this world, but the next. Jesus said not to store up treasures here, but in Heaven (Matt 6:19-20). That means we must brace ourselves for the very possible reality that this life, all 50-100 years of it, will be painful–agony, even. But eternity is worth it.
But what about those who don’t have eternity?
Pay it Forward
The way I see it, Christians have two ways to respond to nonbelievers: A) Do everything in our power to invite them in, to see the goodness of Christ here on earth and in Heaven, to share our eternity (for when you divide infinity, do you really have less?). B) To ease their suffering in this life.
When Jesus spoke of the hypocritical religious figures of his day, he said, “They have their reward,” (Matt 6:16) meaning they’re already getting everything they’ll ever get (not Heaven; see v.19-20 shortly after). Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:32 that if there is no afterlife, then “…let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
The things we do for God we only do because we have hope for tomorrow. We take Hell now for Heaven later.
So if you think someone is destined for Hell, why would you ever make their early lives worse?!
Christians are called to sacrifice. Those “other people” aren’t Christians, so how can we demand they follow our rules? Obedience won’t save them; it will only make our lives more comfortable–ours, not theirs.
We give up our earthly pleasures and powers, or rather give them to others. We don’t need them. We have something greater awaiting us on the other side of the veil.
This is where Security and Affection come from: we give to others what God has given to us, and we give to others that which we don’t need: approval, comfort, and worldly rights. Without concern for ourselves and our comforts, we can invite non-Christians into our hearts and lives. We can give them the security we would want for ourselves (Golden Rule, remember?).
When we stop thinking of ourselves, we can finally have the tenderness, compassion, and affection for those around us.
Just as Christ Jesus did so long ago.
NEXT TIME: F for Fighter