Santa Clarita Signal • Ethically Speaking Column • For August 29th weekender, 2015
Don’t Use It What You Don’t Believe
Image courtesy of supertrooper at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
David W. Hegg
I rarely use this column to advance purely religious or theological ideals. And this one, while it may look religious, is really all about ethics. It just so happens there is a particular ethical problem I’d like to discuss, and it has everything to do with the Bible. So, please keep reading.
Here’s my premise: If you don’t believe it, you can’t use it against those who do.
Today many are throwing around biblical material or principles as ammunition against those of us who order our lives around the Scripture. And that would be fine if they actually believed the truth of what they were spouting. But it is a classic ethical breach when someone uses facts, beliefs, and convictions to upend their opponents when they don’t for a minute believe those facts, beliefs, and convictions are true.
Let me illustrate. Take miracles for example. A miracle is defined as an occurrence that goes against natural law. Miracles occur when natural laws are either suspended or reversed. Exhibit “A” would be the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. That is the granddaddy of all miracles.
But many today don’t believe miracles are possible. They refuse to believe the existence of the supernatural. So, if you don’t believe miracles are possible, you don’t get to shout, “it’s a miracle” when your team wins, or you find the perfect parking space at the mall, or you actually reach a human being when you call the phone company. If you don’t believe the miraculous happens, you don’t get to say it does.
Here’s another one. Lately we Christ-followers have been sternly warned “Judge not lest you be judged.” Here’s the deal. You don’t get to use this verse unless you can tell me where it is found (Matthew 7:1), what the context is (hypocrisy, not critique), who was saying it (Jesus), and what the greater context of that verse is (the Sermon on the Mount). Also, you’ll need to explain to me what Jesus meant when he said it. You don’t get to import your opinions into his sermons, especially if you don’t believe the Bible in the first place. If you don’t believe it, you don’t get to use it!
Here’s another one. It has been plastered all over the Internet that “Jesus never talked about homosexuality.” Those who promote same-sex activity and marriage don’t get to use this argument (which, by the way is totally false, and irresponsible) unless they are willing to say that whatever Jesus did say is to be followed. If you don’t honor Jesus’ teaching where it is clear, you don’t get to use his supposed silence against those who do. To be ethically honest, you’d have to say, “If Jesus talked about it, I would follow what he said.” But unless you are already trying diligently to follow the other things he has said – including his direct teaching on marriage – you don’t get to use Jesus in your argument at all. If you don’t believe it, you can’t use it.
Lastly, I remember when 911 came, and the Twin Towers fell, and America suddenly realized we were no longer safe in our homes. For days after that ill-fated Tuesday our church buildings were open and filled with those who felt driven to be together and pray. A large percentage of them hadn’t darkened the church door for years. Yet, in the uncertainty of the moment they sought out a refuge in God. We welcomed them with open arms, prayed with and for them, and tried hard to get them to see that their natural inclination to reach out to God signified something about the hole in their soul that nothing else could fill.
But once again, I have to ask you: If you don’t give God any time when things are good, why run to him when things are bad? If you don’t think he has a part in your life today, why run to him when tragedy hits tomorrow? Why, when you scoff at Christianity, do you ask your Christian friends to pray for you when jobs are lost, cancer is found, or life’s chaos just becomes overwhelming?
Don’t worry. We won’t tell anyone. And when you’re in trouble we’ll still take you in, pray for you, care for you, and help you all we can regardless of your lack of belief. We do it because we’ve found loving God and loving people is the best way to live, no matter what else is swirling around us.
Lastly, if you still want to say getting that parking place is a miracle, why not consider the possibility of true miracles happening? And if you want to understand what Jesus really said about judging, why not take the time to read and study the Sermon on the Mount? And if you feel prayer can help in the tough times, maybe it’s time to find out why, and see if knowing God holds promise for you all the time? And if you do, let me know. I’ll meet you at the coffee shop and we can talk about it, winsomely, and I promise to listen to all you’ve got to say as long as you truly believe it.