Matthew R. Perry

If Jesus Is So Wonderful, Why Are His Followers Such Jerks: Part I

In Culture on September 18, 2007 at 3:10 pm

(Be sure and read the introduction or you can listen to the sermon in its entirety.)

This Question Shows the Difficulty of Christianity

Selwyn Duke wrote a compelling article entitled, “Are Christians Hypocrites?” Here’s an excerpt:

Many of us know that golf is a notoriously difficult game, and most who attempt it become well acquainted with water and wood as they try in vain to achieve mastery in what Mark Twain called “a good walk spoiled.” In contrast, the toddlers’ game that involves putting different shaped blocks in their respective holes is quite easy for even the worst of golfers to master. Yet, we don’t for even a second assume that the latter is a superior game because conforming to what constitutes proficiency in it is easier than in golf. On the contrary, we assume the opposite, which is that the more difficult the game the more developed it is — the higher in quality it is. Moreover, we know that the failure of golfers to play their sport well shouldn’t reflect negatively upon them, because their ineptitude is only a reflection of the fact that the standard they have to live up to is a higher one than most other games impose on their participants.

So it is with Christianity. Christianity is indeed a difficult game to play because to meet its standard entails cultivating saintly virtue in oneself. It’s a religion that gives you definite parameters within which your behavior must remain, and it never says “if it feels good do it.” So, of course its adherents will pale in comparison to that standard — they’re only human. And in just the same way that you wouldn’t say a child putting blocks in holes to perfection was “better” than those miserable golfers, it is also not reasonable to think that those who conform well to lesser standards are better than Christians who conform badly to their more stringent one.

Truly one is judged by the standards one keeps. And Christianity has some pretty high standards — especially when you consider the absolute nature of some of God’s commands. In Deuteronomy 6:4, we read, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and all your strength.” In Matthew 22, Jesus tells the lawyer this as well as loving your neighbor as yourself as the greatest commandment. Jesus remarks how we are to be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). In Leviticus 11:47, we are to be holy as God is holy — a command repeated by the Apostle Peter in one of his letters in 1 Peter 1:16 — a verse which Eric Masters read previously.

And don’t forget the Ten Commandments. This is where the rub comes in for so many. We have so many in the conservative political realm who are wanting the Ten Commandments posted in our court houses and schools and in public places.

We may be reminded of the man who told his wife a lifelong wish he had: “Honey, you know what I’d love to do? I’d love to climb to the top of Mt. Sinai and say the Ten Commandments.” His wife responded, “Why not stay home and try to keep them?” But this is what is happening in our culture — Christians working hard to keep the commandments posted in public places, but are they concerned about keeping them in their day-to-day lives?

How does this happen? In 2 Corinthians 3:3-6, we read from the Apostle Paul:

And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

The only way that we as followers of Christ can live as followers of Christ is not by living according to the letter of the law (which reveals what sin is — Romans 3:20) but by the Spirit who writes God’s law on our hearts and ultimately leads us, guides us, and seals us. We cannot follow Christ in our own strength — yet so many of us try. No wonder we are so far from what God has for us in Christ Jesus.

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