Be Blameless

Those of us who are in politics and of faith need to work harder at being blameless.

Look, we’re all sinners. The biggest difference between most of you guys and me is that my sins have more than once wound up in newspapers and on television. But we all fall short.

I think too many of us are using that as an excuse though.

Over at the Gospel Coalition website, Trevin Wax documents an interesting talk by Tim Keller. Keller notes

So what’s happening is the roof has come off for the devout. The devout had a kind of a shelter, an umbrella. You couldn’t be all that caustic toward traditional classic Christian teaching and truth. I spoke on Friday morning to the American Bible Society’s board. American Bible Society does a lot of polling about the Bible. The use of the Bible, reading the Bible, attitudes toward the Bible. They said that actually the number of people who are devout Bible readers is not changing that much.

What is changing is for the first time in history a growing group of people who think the Bible is bad, it’s dangerous, it’s regressive, it’s a bad cultural force, that was just never there. It was very tiny. And that’s because the middle ground has shifted, so it is more identified with the more secular, the less religious, and it’s less identified now with the more devout.

It’s not really the first time in history, but since the embrace of Christianity by the West it certainly is. It is helpful to remember the letter from Pliny the Younger to Emperor Trajan after Pliny’s first encounter with Christians. This is a reflection of the early church that people of faith need to get back to. Among the crazy, terrible things Pliny discovers the Christians are doing is this:

they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food–but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.

In other words, Christians were being executed by Pliny the Younger for the dangerous activity of pledging to be loyal, law abiding citizens. In pagan times, Christians stood out as being the people unwilling to behave lawlessly or unethically for personal gain.

There are many pastors these days preaching and teaching on 1 Peter. Peter calls on Christians to be blameless, to follow all laws that do not put them in conflict with their God, to be hospitable and charitable, etc. I have been thinking about 1 Peter after reading this post. Black families, through no fault of their own, are often stopped by police on suspicion. Black families have to try even harder to be law abiding citizens in a world that suspects them of being criminals in some way. The anomaly of the two parent, stable black family in America provides a striking counter to what so much of society sees in the black community these days. The Christian mindset needs to be like this family — stand out by being what is unexpected in a society made of stereotypes, caricatures, and contrasts. Christians are now so often accused of hate, they need to show their compassion and their humility.

And they, like the black pastor pulled over and harassed by the police because a white woman was in the car with him (his wife), Christians need to remember Peter’s words:

19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 2:19-24 (ESV)

Frankly, it is the weirdness of Christianity that should make it stand out. As those who prided themselves on being counter-cultural are now the culture, Christians need to embrace the counter-culturalism of their faith. They need to be the people who don’t speed, or text while driving, or commit adultery, or behave in business without a sense of neighborliness, etc. “Everybody does it” should be a big red flag to Christians that they should not do it.

We are going to be accused of a lot. Some of it will be deserved. But much of it will have to stand against the weight of Christian character and ethic and, frankly, through our behavior we undermine attacks on our faith by the hysteria against us. People of faith should stop their temptation to withdraw from society, but instead should be that family everyone stares out because them seem so weird: a two-parent heterosexual nuclear household of well behaved children who pray in the restaurant before their meal, whose children make good grades and mind their manners, and whose parents are the people you’d want watching over your house when you go on vacation.

In short, in a crazier and crazier society, Christians need to show “The Way” is not just the only path to salvation, but is the stable and steady in a topsy-turvy world. Our politics should reflect that too. Stand and fight on principles of religious freedom. But be of gentle temperament and a kind heart even to those who wish to ruin you. We will be accused often of hypocrisy. We will often fall short. But we should strive to be set apart from the present culture.

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Erick Erickson

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