I collected sports trading cards for three main reasons: 1) because that was what cool kids did; 2) because they looked neat; 3) because I hoped to strike it rich (would you call that gambling?).
I did not collect sports trading cards for particularly good reasons: 1) for the love of sports; 2) out of admiration and respect for particular players; 3) as an investment in my future grandkids’ retirement.
I have discovered that I, and many other human beings, have a similar problem in other areas of life. We collect “beliefs,” “philosophies,” and even “doctrine” and “theologies.” And we often collect them in the wrong way for the wrong reasons.
I used to tell other kids at school that I didn’t go to dances because “it was against my religion.” And, I could have delivered a pretty good argument based on the evils of lustful thoughts and actions. But, my “conviction” was more of a novelty, a distinguishing characteristic, one of the things, in my eyes, that made me “Christian,” and even a way for a shy kid to explain why he didn’t go to a social event.
And just what do I think of dancing now? That the question is much more complicated than I ever knew or wanted to admit; and also that being “against dancing” is not a collector’s item to be acquired to complete my set of conservative Christian beliefs. Or, put another way, I am not a Christian because of my views on dancing, when and how often to take the Lord’s Supper, or the verbal, plenary inspiration of scripture. If I am a Christian it is because of my faith in Jesus Christ, my belief in His real, physical death and real, physical resurrection coupled with my sincere desire to love and serve Him.
Finding a “Special Edition” Warren Moon card would not have made me an excellent card collector, even if it were worth a million bucks. And, again, finding and holding the “right” Christian views does not make me a Christian.
This doesn’t mean that, to be a Christian, you don’t have to get some things right. On the contrary, the apostle John explained that the reason he wrote his account of Jesus’ life was so that his readers would “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” We must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. That is the gospel, and the gospel makes Christians, so we must get that right.
But, my view of dancing or the million other “Christian” topics out there are not gospel (though they should be influenced by the gospel, and can become stages where the gospel is acted out, as I will explain in later posts). That, of course, does not mean they are not important. It simply means they are not cards to be collected, or “convictions” that define us. The gospel (i.e., faith, hope, love, forgiveness, mercy, purity, compassion, kindness, etc.) as displayed and fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus must be our defining conviction…no, our defining qualities.
Let’s make it our goal as individual Christians, and as congregations of Christ’s church not to be categorized by the public based on our views and stands on the “issues,” but based on how well we live out the gospel because the gospel is the only thing that matters (see Galatians 5:6).