I just want to take some time to make something very clear. One reason that men steer clear of the kitchen when the family is gathered for the holidays is because for every woman in the kitchen there are exactly that many ways of doing a simple task like opening a stubborn jar of pickles. Tap the edge of the lid on the counter. Run the lid under cold water. No, hot water. No, not just the lid but the whole jar. Try this rubber gripper thing. All a man wants to do is show his strength by wrestling with the jar until either the lid comes off or his hand comes off. What’s so wrong with doing it that way?
There are also about as many ways to live a life as there are people. Some are clean, some are messy. Some are punctual, some cannot be on time. Some are formal, some are informal. Some are rude, some are almost too nice. And with all of this variety we have developed two extreme views: either we view every one else as wrong if they do not live exactly like us, or we claim that the way you live does not matter as long as it works for you (whatever that means).
These two extremes are a little stereotypical, and only really held by a minority each, but the rest of us live our lives bouncing back and forth between these views or those we think hold them. “At church” we put on our best smiles and best clothes doing our best to look like everyone else because we think everyone else expects that. “During the week” we do our best to try not to offend anyone, to make sure other people think that we think that their way of life may be contrary to ours, but is okay, still smiling, though not for uniformity’s sake, but to make sure everyone knows “I’m okay and you’re okay”–because we think everyone else expects that.
God has a different idea. And He ought to know. He is the One who “made the world and everything in it.” [Acts 17:24] He is the One who knows what “works.”
Here is God’s idea, summarized by Paul: “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.” [Galatians 2:20] Paul did not live according to the expectations of other people. Paul did not think he had it all figured out. Paul did not live according to what “works.” Paul lived by faith.
Great. Wonderful. Live by faith. But, what does that mean? It probably means a lot of things, but it at least means that we live the way Christ would have us live.
There are two necessary conclusions to living the way Christ would have us live. First, this means that we cannot do whatever “works.” We cannot be content with thinking, “You might choose to live a different way, but we are all okay.” If we take this far enough, then we will run into the pedophile who says, “Well, you may not like it, but it works for me, and we are all okay.” We hang ourselves on a moral noose with this view.
Second, this living Christ’s way business also means that we cannot be intolerable of differences. If I think I have got it all figured out, and anyone different than me is wrong, then I have missed the point of Christianity altogether. The point is that I have made a mess of my life, and I need Christ to straighten it out for me. I do not have it all figured out…but Christ does. Your next door neighbor who plays their music too loud is not perfect…then again, neither are you. But, Christ was.
Living by faith means that we are honest about our weaknesses and failures; no more counterfeit smiles and trying to make everyone think we lead a perfect life. But, living by faith also means that there is a right way to live, and many, many wrong ways; settling for “you’re okay, I’m okay” will not do.
So, what do you think? How can we do better at “living by faith”? How can we change our churches and ourselves to focus more on Christ’s way?