What makes Christianity unique…

A significant segment of Christianity in America has a deep emphasis on who is right and who is wrong, on correct beliefs and wrong beliefs. Much of this has to do with how one reads Scripture – literally (but based on a literal account of an English translation, rather than what Scripture was actually written in – Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) vs. contextually vs. critically vs. allegorically vs. a combination of these and other ways of reading scripture.

There’s a large segment of American Christianity that is trapped in reading Scripture – all of it – in a literal sense (but again literal from an English translation). Is Scripture meant to be the answer book, or is it meant to be the start of a conversation? Those are two very different approaches and produce far different results.

If our emphasis as Christians is on who is right and who is wrong, then we’ve made God into something very common in human history – a dictator. Our “faith” can bear many names, but it’s no different than what so many have practiced in the past. Such focus on right/wrong has had many different names throughout time – Pharisees, Puritans, Fundamentalists, etc. But really, all of these ways are just a religious take on the broader foundational belief – that a select group of people are special and have all the right answers and get to impose them on others. Secular ways of describing this are tyranny, dictatorship, fascism, political communism, etc.

What makes Christianity unique and counter cultural isn’t its focus on what is right and what is wrong – but rather the emphasis on grace and mercy. Grace and mercy aren’t a part of any human made systems. Just make some arguments for grace and mercy and see how people reject it, resist it, and fight against it. Talk about relieving people’s debts without paying them back. Talk about financial support for those that are poor. Talk about reparations as a way to bandage societal evils. Listen to the push back.

Too many Christians prefer a God who focuses on who is right and who is wrong because what that really comes down to is this – 1. it creates us and them – a sense of identity and tribalism. 2. If the focus is on right and wrong, and I’m clearly right, then I have earned whatever God has for me. I get to be in control of the relationship with God. It’s merely a transaction and God owes me.

None of that is Christian. It’s just more of the same of what humanity has been offering for ever. But Christianity offers something unique and different – grace and mercy. You didn’t earn and you don’t deserve it, but because the nature of God is love, you receive it. And God invites you to share it with others. That’s counter cultural.

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