Wednesday, February 15, 2012
On Thinking Rightly
Of all the battles than can be fought in the world, battles over how people think are the most curious. It is an election year in the US, so candidates are currently blasting one another for the way they think about national issues. Christian-Evangelicals in the US (not the voting-block evangelicals, but rather the religious evangelicals, although there is a distressing overlap with the two) routinely assassinate one another’s character when someone claims to think in new ways about God’s love (as in Bell vs Piper) or challenges traditional ideas about God’s nature (as in the Open Theists vs Classical Theists).
It seems that in the US Christian-Evangelical world, we don’t very often sit across the table from one another and talk through our differences and come away as brothers and sisters. Instead, we have a tendency to condemn from afar, dismiss one another from our fellowships, and threaten our respective careers. At least we’ve knocked off the whole burning-at-the-stake thing, although it all comes from the same kind of heart.
It’s interesting how Jesus dealt with his detractors. His opponents, of course, sought to malign and then kill him for claiming that God was different than they had assumed. But Jesus’ response to them was different. Yes, he chastised them, called them “vipers,” and made them the butts of some of his parabolic jokes.
Take the Sadducees, for example. These were the guys who didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead. They were clearly at odds with Jesus (and with the Pharisees, who were pro-resurrection), and when they tried to trip him up with goofy resurrection hypotheticals, he set them straight. But he didn’t condemn them to hell for their wrong thinking. In fact, as I recall, when Jesus was harsh with the religious leaders in general, it was because of hypocrisy and their lack of care for the poor.
It was these wrong-thinking religious types who orchestrated Jesus’ death. And yet, when Jesus was dying, he prayed the most unusual prayer:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23-34)
Jesus asks his heavenly Father to forgive the ones who (a) believed wrongly, and (b) were in the act of committing murder. Those people didn’t ask for God’s forgiveness, but Jesus asked on their behalf.
Are they with him now?
Is God really that generous with us?