Thursday, February 5, 2015

That Horrid “Us vs. Them” Distinction and how Jesus Regarded it

Postmodern Christians slam Christianity for making “us vs. them” distinctions. Brian McLaren charges that:

·       Christians have been taught to see in "us vs. them" terms for centuries, and it will take time to reorient faithful people in a new direction -- "us with them," working for the common good (Huffington Post Religion Blog, 2/19/03).

In support of his indictment, McLaren cites two like-minded students:

·       “People don't want to have to side with the church and against their friends who are Buddhist or Muslim or Jewish or agnostic."

·       “We can't find a church that doesn't load a bunch of extra baggage on us. We tried, but they all had this long list of people we had to be against. It's just not worth it.”

Many Christians will give this a resounding “amen” adding, “I just don’t see any difference between Christians and non-Christians.

However, Jesus insisted on a sharp difference. He often made “us vs. them” and “children of this world (of the darkness) vs. His own (of the light) distinctions. To reject this distinction is therefore to reject much of Jesus’ teachings. For example, Jesus taught:

  • "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete." (Luke 6:46-49)
Jesus drew a sharp distinction between those who heard His Word and practiced it and those who merely heard. Both built houses that looked the same. However, one had a foundation and the other was built on nothing solid. Their house lacked the foundation faith and obedience to Jesus. Both houses stood firm until the storm destroyed the one lacking this foundation. The storm revealed not only their differing fate but also their very distinctive characters.

The house without the foundation was a sham, a mere deceptive façade. There was nothing supporting it. No one could see the difference between the two prior to the storm. On the surface, both had the same provisions and problems. Both had bedrooms, kitchens, and toilets. Both would need repairs and regular paintings.

The saved and unsaved both raise families. Both laugh and cry with their children, have friends, and suffer losses. In fact, Christ’s children tend to look worse for a number of reasons:

  1. They generally had been numbered among the most pathetic and least respected (1 Cor. 1:26-29).
  2. They undergo more hardships (1 Peter 4:17).
  3. They tend to be more awkward, since they are learning a new language and have to integrate it with the old.
Yet, according to Jesus, the two groups – born again and not - are profoundly different:

  • "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again… I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of… the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:3-6)
Christ’s entire teaching is predicated on this distinction. Does it work against the common good as McLaren claims? Instead, it is because of this distinction and the horrible fate of those who have denied Christ that we reach out in love to this dying world!

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