Making a stand for Christ
In my previous post on Being in the world without being from the world, I tried to explain how people from younger Christian communities (Africa and Eastern Europe specifically) tend to make rules in order to counter the lifestyles from which they had previously come before accepting Christ. I had a lot of very positive reaction on this post (positive in the sense of people contributing towards the discussion, although not everyone agreed with the viewpoint of these Christians.) Some people did remark that this may become extremely legalistic, even Pharisaic. To which I absolutely agree.
The point I tried to make though, was that these Christians, coming from a predominantly un-Christian background, felt that they had to do something to prove that they are no longer in the world, but that they have stepped into a new world with new rules. In Swaziland where drinking until you’re blind drunk is a fairly normal part of the culture (and the same can be said about Russia), it does make sense to expect of Christians to break completely with this habit.
But I have often thought whether there are things within the Western culture that Christians will need to break from if they want to make a real stand for Christ. Many of the laws in the Old Testament, which may seem senseless to us today, were specifically proclaimed by God in order to distinguish the Israelites from the other heathen nations. One example comes to mind. Many (probably most) of the heathen nations had a multitude of gods which they worshipped. These gods were present in certain places (mostly “high places”) and in order to appease these gods, the people had to do all kinds of acts, including things like self-mutilation or even sacrificing their own children. When God saves the people of Israel, He makes new laws. He is the One and Only God and they are not allowed to worship any other. He is the One who made heaven and earth, the sun and the moon, the stars and the planets, the trees and the mountains. The “holy” places of the heathens, the places where their gods would be found or the things which they worshipped as gods, were in fact all created by Jahwe. The God of Israel will not be appeased through self-mutilation or the sacrifice of human beings, but when people have sinned, they sacrifice an animal. (Obviously, later this animal sacrifice is replaced by the sacrifice on the cross.)
We had a remarkable professor in Old Testament who regularly told us to search for the reason why these laws were made. He maintained that Leviticus is just as relevant today as any of the letters of Paul. Because if we understand the principle behind the law, we will find that the principle has never changed.
How will Christians set themselves apart from the non-Christians in today’s world? Some things are easy. Honesty is not often found in the corporate world and definitely a place where Christians should live differently. But the answers are not always as clear. As I see more and more people caught up in the race towards greater wealth, moving from one home to the next larger house, buying bigger and more luxurious cars, buying larger and larger plasma screen TV sets, I’m wondering if this is not the place where Western Christians need to say: “Enough is enough!” In a world where millions of people are dying of hunger, where injustice takes place on a huge scale against the poor and the needy, should Christians not seek the principles laid down by God and reach a point where they say: “As a Christians, I have to make a stand for what is right!”
This may sound legalistic. But is there any other way in which we can prove in today’s materialistic world that Jesus not only came to save me for eternal life, but that He saved me from these powers that threaten to take over our lives completely.
This is not the only thing which we as Western Christians need to be saved from. Where do you think we need to make a stand if we want to convince the world that Christ truly made a difference in my life?