WHAT I DID…
The other day I saw a neighbor’s child running across the street, chasing a ball. He was totally unaware of the vehicle speeding towards him. I had to act fast, there was no time to think. I chased after him and yanked him out of harm’s way just as the pick-up truck zoomed past. No, my decision was not a calculated choice. I didn’t do what I did because it was the “Christian” thing to do. There was no time to recall the relevant verses. I simply reacted, and was moved more by adrenaline than by compassion.
But now when I’ve had time to think about it, perhaps I shouldn’t have done that.
WHAT I SHOULD HAVE DONE…
Perhaps I should have just let the boy get hit by the car so that he would learn to never play in the street again. Experience is the best teacher, you know. But I couldn’t do that, I had no way of knowing if he would have survived that hit. Or maybe I should have shouted at him, and told him the dangers of playing in the street and how he deserved what’s coming to him – a 1 tonne pick-up truck moving at 100 KPH. Even better, I should have shouted the Gospel at him and hope that he had enough time to believe and be saved if he wasn’t born again already.
Perhaps I should have just closed my eyes and said a quick prayer: “Father please save this boy from the inevitable, yet not my will but Yours be done.” But I am not sure I had enough time for even a coherent sentence of prayer.
As I said, I simply reacted. I didn’t even have time to think about my own safety. After the danger was past, I did most of the things already mentioned above. I strongly chastised the boy and told him to never do anything like that again. He looked pretty shaken already. I am sure he will think twice before attempting anything like that again. But then again, boys will be boys.
WELCOME TO THE “REAL” CHURCH…
You’ve probably heard this phrase said by a popular pastor on your television or even your church, “We are a real church, we deal with real issues, we don’t have time to sit and argue about theology when there are hungry kids to be fed and poor people to be helped.” The speaker would proceed to give an inspirational speech about changing the society, and how we can impact the nations with “the love of Christ.” More often than not, a few guys come on the stage to share their testimonies either about the way they are impacting their neighborhoods, or the way a member of that church impacted their lives.
There’s just a way that a good true story gripes hearts and moves people to tears. I know. I’ve blogged similar stories and received similar reactions. That’s just what stories do. They are powerful that way.
But there’s an assumption being made here. Are those people [who worry about theology] just being cold, heartless, unfeeling, selfish and indifferent to the world’s needs? I don’t think so. We tend to compartmentalize our Christianity, and this is our undoing. Strong dichotomies and strict antitheses are not helping anyone. It is not a matter of doctrine versus practice, truth versus love. It is both. It is a matter of the doctrine under-girding our practice; the truth in our love. That order is deliberate. Doctrine precedes and is the foundation for practice. Truth precedes and informs love.
WHAT JESUS SAID [before] WHAT JESUS DID…
In Matthew 14, we have a record of Jesus feeding 5,000 people because they were hungry and had no food. A few hours before this, He healed their sick because He felt compassion for them. But what we often miss is that the reason these people were hungry is because they had spent hours listening to His teachings. His doctrines. His theology about the Kingdom of God. The parables in the preceding chapter (13) are enough to keep the people swimming in theology for weeks. The parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23), the parable of the weeds (24-30), the parable of the mustard seed and the yeast (31-35), the parable of the hidden treasure and pearl (44-46), and the parable of the net (47-52).
These are profound teachings about the Kingdom of heaven. Theology preceded “acts of love” even in Jesus’ story.
Jesus prioritized teaching to miraculous acts of charity. His good works were merely incidental, an overflow of the love in His heart, a love formed and informed by the truth about the Kingdom of God. He did not gather the masses so that He could distribute food to them; He gathered them to teach them, and fed them because they were hungry. It was never a “doctrine” versus “practice” issue for Jesus, and neither is it for us. We are called to walk in the truth. To worship God in Spirit and in Truth, and for the Spirit and Truth to display themselves in our actions.
SOME TRANSGRESSIONS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS…
Those of us who emphasize orthodoxy and neglect acting in love must be chastised to live out our faith. We must be exhorted to put deeds to our words. But those of us who emphasize good works and neglect teaching orthodoxy must be rebuked to return back to the preaching of the Gospel. We must never delude ourselves that these two transgressions are equal. They are not. Doctrine is primary. Morality is secondary. For the latter to be genuine, it must flow from the former. Theology is not just fundamental, it is foundational. It is what defines true reality. It is what shapes who we are as a church. In the beginning was the Word.
So, what does it mean to be real in this world? It means to understand the world as it really is; to understand God as He really is; and to relate to both in light of this understanding. It is not enough to touch hearts for Jesus. We must also be willing to let Jesus be the one who touches those hearts. We must preach Jesus crucified and remember that any other thing we “do” is flowing from this ultimate truth and pointing to this ultimate truth.
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” [John 6:26-29]