What does it mean to be a good Christian?
What does it mean to be a good American?
Can you be both?
Are they the same?
Are they different?
These are wonderful and hard questions.
They came up in a great discussion in my Disciple class last night.
We talked about the book of Daniel. We talked about justice.
What makes us work for justice? How do we know something is just? When something hits us hard and we say, “That’s not right?” Why do we say that? How do we know that?
Where in us do we make that call?
A very wonderful and wise man in class was bold enough to ask hard questions last night. One question he said was, “But when we stand up for justice – is it always because Jesus has called us to?”
I said- and way too quickly reacting. Usually I’m better at waiting, leading, asking questions. Last night in bed I couldn’t stop thinking about how I wished I had silenced myself more in class…. (I had a long and hard day and I was tired, hungry—but I wished I had done a better job.)
I quickly said, “I am. When I work for justice it comes out of my faith and out of my belief that Jesus is leading me.” Yes that is true for me—but I worried that it sounded like I have it all together- which I don’t. I worried it sounded as if I always do what Jesus call me to do – which I don’t.
I spent some time dissecting a recent issue that I felt was a justice issue—I felt angry about it and felt it was wrong. But why? Where in me said “This is wrong!” Where did I get that? Who put it there?
And to be completely honest with you—I can’t put my finger on it exactly. There were a number of reasons I thought it was wrong—but none were stand out search light shining—this is it. But they did all hit me from a faith place. As I went deeper and deeper- I’m angry because of this—why? – Well – because I believe…. That’s how it went. Why do I believe this? Ultimately came from my faith in Jesus Christ.
I am also sure that others who also have a faith in Jesus Christ may come to a different conclusion on justice issues than I do – also guided by their faith—so where does this leave us?
How do we go forward?
Where do we gain traction in decisions? How do we have unity? Where can we agree?
But there are also other justice issues- that I’m realizing probably do not come out of my rootedness in Christ. I am realizing this as I write and process. I may not always know what is just strictly from my faith… For instance- I believe that democracy is a good thing, that freedom of religion is a good thing. Why do I believe that? Does that come out of my faith? I think it comes out of my being raised as an American.
I believe that respect and tolerance are important. I do not think everyone must think and believe like me. Where does that come from? Is it because I am an American? Is it because I follow the Golden Rule to “do unto others as I would have them do unto me”? Is it both?
And yet I do also believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the light and that he is the way to the Father. I preach good news because I am called to make disciples. I have a hope that people will come to believe in Jesus Christ and that I can be part of leading them to know Him and accept salvation. And yet- if someone does not believe I do not attempt to force them to agree with me. I am respectful. I am tolerant that we are different and yet, I do not accept that they are right.
Does it even matter where my reason for thinking about justice comes from?
I think it does. I think that that awareness is very important.
I think that when people stand up and say they are doing something because God has called them to—it carries a different weight.
Sometimes I wonder if they truly are being called by God or if they are manipulating a “God-Message” for their own self-interest. Sometimes I question their theological and exegetical integrity for the way some may “proof-text” their way to proving God is calling them.
Who am I and what is my identity?
I am a Christian.
I am an American.
What do they mean together and separately?
What responsibility do I have in these identities?
I am so thankful to my class for teaching me. For forcing me to evaluate my own motives, my own reasons for justice, belief, faith... I am thankful for the ability God has given me to be with others who challenge me to grow. Thank you God for my Disciple Bible Study!
Also-- I am definitely taking up the suggestion to read "American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us" now! If you have suggestions and/or discussion- I welcome it!