Friday, May 23, 2008

The Fallacy of Principles Above People

I was speaking with a friend the other day who was concerned about Christian culture and its affect on us to shroud who we are in secrecy, afraid that others might see us fall short of the standard. As we worked it out in conversation, I began to see a common thread running through the mentalities of many Christians, and that is the concept of "Principles Above People". The enduring Christian tradition is so deeply rooted in our Christian culture that in order to ensure its survival, we must not allow anyone to desecrate our holy Christian law. These rules, some Christians call them principles or standards, have been so elevated as to now have nothing to do with the purpose behind them: people.

When Jesus speaks in the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5, he is clear. Using several examples from the Mosaic law, Jesus points at the legalists' short-sightedness. Seeing only as far as the rules themselves, they were content to hate one another, as long as they didn't commit murder, tell lies and break promises, as long as they weren't breaking lawful oaths, or commit adultery in the heart, degrading with the mind, as long as they were kept physically pure. Pushing the external displays of piety aside, Jesus points to the purpose of it all: It's about the heart. What good is your physical purity if your intent has degraded marital union in your heart? Or if you keep the technical rules of a lawful oath, but intentionally mislead another? Do you think that you are holy by holding in a display of your hatred towards another? The truth is as Paul says in Romans 3. No one can live up to the law. No one can stand to principles. And so we hide behind masks, concealing ourselves though we commune with our very own family, brothers and sisters in Jesus.

But there is something more important than our principles. Yes, even more important than the topics of drugs, alcohol, extramarital sex, abortion, and gay marriage. Behind these issues are people. The very people who Jesus came to save. Not, I might add, the pious principle-clingers who thought they were well. One of them comes to Jesus in Luke 18. He is very wealthy and young, proudly stating that he has kept all the principles. Unimpressed Jesus says to him, why don't you go take your money and give it to people.


1 comment:

Livvy said...

Interesting to know.