How Swings Work
In the introduction to a series on Christian Ethics, I tried to articulate the dangers of both legalism and libertarianism, framing that discussion around the analogy of a body's immune system. An overactive immune destroys the very elements we need for survival, while a passive immune system allows destructive forces to damage and ultimately overtake the body.
Reading through church history, one can see a tendency towards the extreme ends of both legalism and libertarianism, perhaps because the church has often been formulating its positions in a reactionary manner. Lawlessness and anarchy give way to the police state, not only in political history, but in the history of the church.
That's why what is needed in any ethical discussion are the foundational principles that I outlined today:
1. I need a commitment to the person of Christ that supersedes my commitment to a certain interpretation of the Bible. Remember, it was those who thought they knew the text best (because they had studied it the most), who killed Jesus.
2. I need to a commitment to love that supercedes my knowledge. The religious leaders of Jesus day used their knowledge of the law to destroy. The church at Corinth was using their knowledge of their liberty in an equally destructive manner. When the day is done, John the Apostle said it clearly and often: your love will be where the confirmation of your testimony will appear. What does this love look like when we are called to demonstrate to our enemies, to those with whom we don't agree, and to those who are quite different than us? Our capacity to answer this question and live it out will be a large determinent of our capacity to be a 'river of living water' to our city.
3. I need a commitment to transformation rather then entrenchment. Why are we in the church often threatened by those whose understanding of the truth is different than our own? How can we better embody our calling to continual renewal of our mind, so that our transformation can be, as the scriptures say, continually upwards, from glory to glory? What kind of structures are needed to enhance the needed conversations that will lead to transformation? What kind of attitudes are needed on the part of Jesus followers?
These are important questions for the church to be asking at this time in history, because the land is dry and thirsty, and the opportunities for us to be a blessing are enormous!