Sunday, August 5, 2007

Faith and Relevance

I’ve been reading an excellent book by John Fischer called “Fearless Faith” (I highly recommend anything John Fischer writes – he is normally very thought-provoking and interesting). The basic premise of the book is that Christians today do not regularly engage themselves with the world and culture around them, but have instead created a safe Christian sub-culture where we can live without fear of having our preconceived notions challenged.

I still struggle with what relevance Christianity has to today’s culture and society. It frustrates me to know that for many, the stereotype of a modern Christian is someone who has disengaged their brain for simplistic, bumper-sticker slogans. It frustrates me even more when I see Christians who live up to that stereotype (trust me, none of you fit in this category). How are Christians supposed to be light and salt to a world that can so easily ignore the trite garbage that many Christians throw around (“the bible says it, I believe it, that settles it”). Again, let me emphasize that none of you even come close to these kind of offenses – but let’s face it, we’ve all seen and heard this kind of stuff.

Allow me to quote from the book now:

“Christians need to become familiar with more than just the Christian point of view … I think, in this regard, of Daniel and his three friends who served in a pagan king’s court and of how well versed they were in the thinking of their day. It says of them that ‘God gave [them] knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning…In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom’ (Daniel 1:17, 20). In other words, they knew everything their contemporaries knew, and then some.

For some Christians today, it’s almost as if they are afraid of being corrupted by a thought they haven’t already had, as if they have already made up their minds about everything. A Christian may have made up her mind about the basic doctrines of the gospel, but she is always in the process of figuring out how that doctrine fits into the life she leads in the real world. That’s why the discussion has to go on, and in that discussion, opportunities to dialogue with the world will always come up.

Jesus commands us in Mark 12:30 to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. That means, when properly used, the mind is something to love God with.”

This struck a major chord with me and I remembered something someone had mentioned about that passage in Mark, so I did a little looking and here’s the rundown on what we’ve got:

  • Jesus was answering a scribe who came into the middle of a game of “gotcha” between the Sadducees and Jesus (the Sadducees were losing)
  • The scribe simply asked which was the greatest commandment
  • Jesus answered by quoting Deut. 6:4-5 – BUT, he added something. The passage in Deuteronomy commands us to love God with all of our heart, soul, and strength – Jesus said we were to also love God with our mind (also noted in Matt 22:37)
  • The word “Mind” used here (and in Matthew) is the Greek word “dianoia” which Strong’s translates as “deep thought – the faculty (mind or its disposition) by impl. its exercise – imagination, mind, understanding”
  • Jesus then added the second command from Lev. 19:18 – to love your neighbor as yourself. I had always assumed these two commandments were found in the same place in the Old Testament. I did not realize before that Jesus had taken these two commands from two different parts of the Old Testament and put them together like this
  • The scribe then compliments Jesus for his answer and adds “this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices”
  • Jesus then compliments the scribe, saying “You are not far from the kingdom of God”
  • After that, no one said a thing.

Think about this for a minute: Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our mind – our thoughts, our imagination, our understanding. Not only that, but this scribe who started off challenging Jesus – maybe he was trying to trick him, maybe the scribe was genuinely impressed by the way Jesus was handling the Sadducees and really wanted an answer – either way, he asked the question that lead to the revelation of this great commandment – and by the time the conversation ends, Jesus declares that this scribe is almost at the kingdom of God.

In the middle of all of this, I started thinking about how I relate to my children. Obviously, I appreciate it when they obey my wishes without complaint. Yes, I enjoy it when they express their love and affection for me. But, there is nothing like getting into a conversation with them – when they reveal something they’ve discovered, thought about, read, wondered about – when they ask the tough questions and want to struggle through to find a real answer. I can’t help but think that maybe God is like that. Yes, he enjoys our obedience and praise, but is He waiting for us to engage Him with our mind?

Is this why Jesus encouraged us to ask, seek, and knock? Does He want us to wrestle with those tough questions knowing that the answers we find will help us grow into something more than we ever imagined?

What do you think? Is any of this legitimate?

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