Christianity as Both

I’ve been writing a lot about what Christian leadership might look like in our current context.  When I say current context I mean mainly within the American culture and Church.  Of course part of the problem is that in America there is no “the Church” per se, but that is something to be addressed at a later time.

We’ve been talking about leading with all of Jesus within the right narrative and aiming at Christ not lesser goods.  Today I want to tackle a really important idea that can help us actually do that.

One of the things that happens all the time in the current cultural conversation over Christianity is that we tend to set things that appear opposed against each other.  Or another approach is to take two Christian ideas and say that we need to balance them.

Here are some simple examples.  We say we need more justice or more mercy.  We say we need to make sure we have the right mix of truth and grace.  Some want more focus on God’s wrath while others say no it’s God’s love.  Some say we need more self esteem after all we are God’s beloved but yet others say we need less self focus and more humility.  Should we forgive all sin or call out all sin, or just the really bad sin, according to who?  I should follow my heart but my heart is evil.  You get the idea.

And this is just the theological discussion.  The practice section gets even worse.  We should help meet the needs of the poor – that is first some say.  Others say, no we must share the gospel verbally above all else.  Some say we must stop killing unborn babies while others say that providing healthcare for all is most important.  Some say we must be welcoming to all while others say we need to be focused on growing the faithful.  We could go on and on.

The answer to most of this is very simple, and yet very complex.  But we have to keep it in mind to have a chance.  That is this:  Christianity is not part of one truth and part of another.  It is not a balance of say, truth and grace.  It’s not finding just the right amount of each.  It’s finding all of both.

Nowhere does Jesus call us to be balanced.  He calls us to all of it.  He first actually calls us to give all of ourself to all of Him.  He’s not asking for part of you.  He asking for all of it. He’s not asking for us to submit some things to Him.  He’s asking for all of it.  He doesn’t want some of our possessions, He wants all of them.

But even after that He never calls for balance.  He doesn’t call for us to love some people. He calls us to love everybody, even our enemies.  He doesn’t call us to forgive some of the time.  He doesn’t call us to be a percentage of holy.

Now to be sure there are seasons for some things.  What I mean is that there are situations where we need to step up with certain fruits of the spirits in a moment vs. another.  But even that is based on walking with Him enough to know what to do when.

Part of the way we avoid the trap of aiming for less than Jesus and ending up with ideology is that we recognize the BOTH of Jesus and Christianity.

Christianity doesn’t balance truth and grace.  It’s all of truth and all of grace.  It doesn’t balance justice and mercy.  It’s all of justice and all of mercy.  It’s not even a sum.  It’s not some help the poor here and evangelize there.  It’s do both.  It’s both inclusive and exclusive.

Now again, certain days, situations, and contexts need different things in the moment.  But the point here isn’t a particular moment.  That isn’t our problem.  Our problem is that we make ideology out of one part or we think we have to look for this magical balance of things.  But Christianity at its core doesn’t do either of those things.

By the way you can see this by how people attack the church.  Some say the church is too constraining with all of its rules.  But someone else will say that it’s too forgiving of those who fall.  Someone will say the church doesn’t do enough to help the marginalized while someone else will say that we do too much helping and not enough truth telling. Some say the Church is complicit with the culture and other say it is not engaged with the culture enough.  And the best part is those are just examples of what Christians think of each other without even getting into how non Christians view it.

At least from our end as believers we need to stop all of this.  We do this not by fighting over which practices are more important and trying to crush the other “side”.   Nor by figuring out how to balance the truths of Christianity.  Instead we do it by leaning into all of the truths.  It’s more complicated sure.  It’s harder no doubt.  What it does is force us to actually follow Jesus and not turn part of what He says into the whole.

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