Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Labels and Biases, Begone!

Quite recently I tried to express in a blog entry (that I thankfully didn’t post) that as a new believer, the Scriptures influenced me thoroughly enough that I was supposedly not vulnerable to the merely human biases and labels and presuppositions that surrounded me. As a new believer, I had carefully examined and discarded many of the opinions and ideals that I had mistakenly adopted up to that time, and then unthinkingly assumed that the changes that would then occur must therefore be biblical. Strangely enough, during the same time that I was pondering how to express this supposed freedom from biases, I was also pondering how to express the exact opposite idea, just how much my attitudes toward others had in fact been influenced by others in non-scriptural ways. I didn’t realize until this writing just how obviously juxtaposed and contradictory these two concepts were—and thanks to various scenarios that have opened my eyes in recent months, I know that the second view is in fact the truer one.
Somehow (and I am not sure exactly how), very early in my walk of faith, I concluded that the only true Christian was a conservative one, assuming that that the more extremely and thoroughly conservative one’s political leanings, the more they somehow helped to underscore and verify a person’s godliness. I also remember being very carefully taught to suspect, if not in fact reject, the profession of faith of Charismatic Christians; also the validity of certain authors, books, and churches. After some observation of the lives of those who promoted these ideas to me, the lack of regard for truth in their own walk made me more likely to question their views--but it took some doing, because as a result I also had to question my own.
I found that I had walled myself into a fortress of adopted beliefs that I had built brick by brick. I was now enclosed in a small spot where there were few who possessed this faith that was now humanly defined by something more than the biblical concept of salvation; every political stance had a sometimes inexplicable spiritual significance; the walls I had built were high and strong, and the love that Jesus would have me display was more and more difficult to live out. The air in that fortress was heavy and I was suffocating in it.

When I visited the church that had been most vocally criticized, I found that its teachings were stunning and the ministry it was performing appeared to be powerful and effective in reaching the lost for Christ. I got to know a 16-year-old Charismatic Christian whose passion for Christ seemed to far exceed that of most other believers I had met around her age. I also greatly enjoyed two books by Eugene Peterson, an author that I later discovered had written The Message, a book that I had heard strongly ridiculed numerous times.
These experiences help me realize the vital importance of adhering only to Scripture for the purpose of evaluating the teachings, the faith, and the ministry of those who profess faith in Christ. Adopting the biases, the prejudices, the opinions of others without discerning for oneself can only build walls of suspicion, if not hatred, and will prohibit us from living out our faith to the utmost. Though I will continue to hold to my pro-life views as primary indicators of my political choices, I can no longer state unequivocally that I am in all ways conservative. That, along with all other ideas, needs to come under the scrutiny of Scripture, and I hope to open my heart and mind to believing, living, and loving others in such a way that pleases God, and discard the labels and biases that had formed my views for so long. I no longer care to build the walls that confine, reject, judge and condemn, but with God’s help, to tear them down and leap over them.

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