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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mixed Messages

It is so easy to send mixed messages. As the language gets more and more confused and commonality diverges, it just gets easier and easier to say one thing while broadcasting another.

Take, for instance, the cry for tolerance. Those who are making this call seem to sound so loving and open. "We need to remove hate. We need to make everyone feel welcome. We need to all get along." And, you know what? There's nothing wrong with any of those messages. Good. Fine. We're all on the same page. That is, until you present an opinion that is counter to their pet idea. You cannot say, for instance, that homosexual behavior is morally wrong, even if you do so without discriminating against those who engage in the act, because that's not tolerant. That is hate speech. And now the position gets garbled. We need to be tolerant ... of beliefs with which we agree, but not with beliefs with which we disagree. Mixed messages.

Take, for instance, Reformed theology. Reformed theology is, by all accounts, the most rational perspective on Christian doctrine. Most can't disagree that it holds the highest view of the Sovereignty of God and expounds on God's grace in ways that exceed the rest. It is a good message. That position, however, gets confusing when there are so many sour folk in the Reformed camp. There is a sense that Reformed theology breeds puritanical, pharisaical pinch-nosed people. Brothers, these things ought not be! There is nothing more liberating than the highest view of God's sovereignty, nothing more joy-producing than the vastness of God's grace. Reformed theology offers the highest view of God. How can it produce such sour-pusses? Mixed messages.

Take, for instance, Christianity. If there is a single word that epitomizes Christianity, it is "Gospel" -- Good News. Paul wrote the entire epistle to the Romans with this premise: "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith'" (Rom 1:16-17). Good news. And what is that good news? While every other religion on the planet either offers no hope at all or a horribly impossible hope of "being good enough" where "good enough" is some fantastically low bar to hit, Christianity offers genuine hope for sinners. And, look, we're all sinners. No one really doubts that. But while every other religion encourages you to be "good enough", an impossible task, Christianity offers grace -- unmerited favor. While every other religion builds on your own ability (which you don't have) to work your way into God's favor and avoid His disfavor, Christianity offers God's plan to restore a relationship with you from God's perspective. No, wait! That's not the end. Christianity offers, beyond that, a life powered by God, a purpose constructed by your Maker, love beyond your wildest dreams (that's no hyperbole; see Eph 3:19-21), joy, peace, oh, it goes on and on. Good message ... really, really good. So why is it that Christians are so often perceived as joyless killjoys searching far and wide for anyone with any happiness in order to snuff it out? Why is it that, despite the well-known and oft-repeated promise that God works all things together for good to those who love Him, we complain so much about our circumstances? Why is it that, although we know that bringing our concerns to Him provides a peace that passes understanding, we are so often worried and restless? Why is it that, although our Master stated unequivocally, "I came that you might have life and that more abundantly", we seem so often to be so narrow in our living? Sure, sure, some of it is tares among the wheat. And, sure, it is a given that the world will hate true followers of Christ. He promised that. Some of these presentations are intentionally garbled by the father of lies. But I'm sure, if you're honest, you'd have to admit that too often these things are true of genuine Christians when they should not be. Mixed messages.

Mixed messages are easy. Claim that "X is immoral" and do it, and you've sent a mixed message. Declare that "Y is good" and don't do it, and you've sent a mixed message. Cry for tolerance while being intolerant and it gets confusing. Hold the highest view of God and be angry with others about it and it gets garbled. Stand on the best news mankind has for all time while muddling about in worry and stress and you're sending mixed messages. There is a word for what I'm suggesting. It is "integrity". You know what in integer is, don't you? It's a whole number. No decimals. No fractions. A whole number. That's what integrity is. No pollution, no mixing, no corruption. It is holding to the truth and living it as well. Integrity does not mix messages.

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