It seems like almost every day there is an editorial in the newspaper from a Christian who is trying desperately to defend God – or rather, his or her view of God and Christianity. I came across a DVD recently from a Christian scientist who is trying to rally Christians around the cause of defending the 7-day creation theory, claiming that the authority of scripture is at stake if we don’t. Why is it that we Christians, who know that the truths of the Bible can only be accepted through faith, seem so intent on defending the authority – or our own interpretation – of scripture? Does God need us to defend him?
In the book of John, chapter 2, Jesus drives out the money changers from the temple, saying, “Don’t turn my Father’s house into a marketplace!” (v. 16). The Jewish leaders demanded that Jesus prove he had the authority to do this by performing a miracle. Here it is, a perfect opportunity for God to defend himself. All Jesus had to do was perform a miracle and they would know that he is the Son of God. Proof. The religious leaders wanted it then, and so do we today. We want to know that we’re not basing our beliefs on a lie. Before we go against the status quo, we want to be sure that God is real.
So what’s wrong with that? As rational beings, created in God’s image, isn’t it our duty to thoroughly test our beliefs? Absolutely! But our quest for truth should be motivated by our desire for greater understanding of and fellowship with God, not so that we can prove to everyone that we are right and they are wrong. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day who were demanding proof, loved quoting scripture as a way to make themselves look good and point out the flaws in others. But before we join Jesus in righteous anger against the Pharisees, perhaps we all (me included) need to take a long, hard look in the mirror.
Do we quote the scriptures on the evil of divorce as a way of ignoring the needs of the single mother in our congregation? Do we rail against abortion, but refuse to help the courageous ones who choose life? Do we pride ourselves on tithing, but refuse to help our Christian neighbor who’s struggling to put food on the table? Oh, if only Jesus would prove that he is God, then it would be so much easier to follow him because everyone would know we made the right choice. But Jesus isn’t in the business of making himself or us look good. His goal was, and is, to bring glory to the Father. When we beat others down by quoting a few choice scriptures in an effort to defend God, destroying opportunities for relationship in the process, are we really following Jesus’ example of doing everything to the glory of God alone?
Christ’s answer to the Jewish leaders’ demand for proof was, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). And just in case we didn’t get the reference, John goes on to clarify in verse 21, “But by ‘this temple,’ Jesus meant his body.” Yes, Jesus gave us proof of his authority. Death could not claim him. Christ rose from the dead, conquering sin and death once and for all. We cannot prove that God created the earth, and yet here it is. We cannot prove to someone who does not know Christ that he exists, and yet he lives in our hearts. No argument on earth can destroy him. He is.
So if God doesn’t need us to defend him, what does he desire of us? “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Luke 10:27).
We are loving God with our hearts when we look to the scriptures as our path to a deeper relationship with our God and Savior, instead of as a means to point out the offenses of others; when we pray with the psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
We are loving God with our soul when we surrender our desire to be seen as right in the eyes of others, and exchange it for the desire to be like Abraham, whose faith was credited to him as righteousness (Romans 4:3).
We love God with all our strength when we acknowledge to him that we are weak and in need of God’s strength that is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9); when we realize that it is only in his strength that we can live a holy life, not by adhering to a strict moral code.
We love God with our mind when we heed the words of the Apostle Paul, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is” (Romans 12:2, NLT).
We are loving our neighbor when we help those who are in need; when we use scripture to build others up, rather than tear them down. (That doesn’t mean we never say anything confrontational, but it means that we speak the truth in love, with the goal of restoring fellowship.) We are more likely to draw our neighbors to Christ through our love than through our persuasive arguments.
Jesus could have proved to the earthly authorities that he was the Maker of Heaven and Earth, Almighty God, the King of Kings. Instead, he chose to die on a cross to prove to all of us sinners that God is love. God doesn’t ask me to defend him, he asks me to love him and allow him to continue demonstrating his love for others through me.
Irony Note from the Author:
I’m aware of the irony that I am using scripture to back up my view that we shouldn’t use scripture as a weapon to prove that we are right. I cite scripture in my posts because I don’t want to just proclaim my views, I want to make sure that what I’m saying is based on God’s Word. However, God’s “Word” is the person of Jesus Christ. My goal in these posts is always to point others to Christ, not to persuade you to think and act like me. In fact, my daughter mentioned the other day, “Mom, I want to be like you when I grow up.” I was flattered for about two seconds, then immediately said, “When you grow up, I don’t want you to be like me, I want you to be like Jesus.” The Christian walk will look different on everyone. We can be unified as followers of Christ, but have different views and opinions on matters not essential to salvation. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, nor do I want others to be my disciple. My goal is not to get followers of my blog, but to encourage others to be followers of Christ.
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