Whenever I got something new as a kid, my dad would make me read through the instructional manual before using it. This was especially important for things that could either be broken or that could break something else. Dad expected me to know how to use whatever it was properly, even if it was a toy. One memory of this practice stands out clearly in my mind. Upon being paid as a young child to help work on the remodel of my sister and brother-in-law’s house, I decided (with quite a bit of encouragement from my dad) to reinvest my earnings by purchasing a cordless drill. This was a great thing for me as a young lad who was just learning how to build and fix things with power tools. As you can imagine, as soon as I got home, I wanted to unpack the drill and try it out. Not so fast!
According to my dad’s rules, I had to first read through the entire instruction manual. He then proceeded to quiz me on certain parts of the manual, just to make sure I had read it. I chuckle and tease my dad about it to this day, but in reality it was good for me to study and learn. It taught me to appreciate using a power tool and how it really wasn’t a toy, even though I kind of thought about it like that. And I still think about this every time I buy a tool, electronic device, or item that needs to be assembled. I always have the impulse to bypass the instructions and figure it out on my own. But, when I take the time to read and learn, it usually saves me some headaches down the line.
I also think of that lesson when it comes to the instruction manual of God’s Word. Now, the Bible is much more than an instruction book. Most importantly, it is the message of free salvation in Christ. But it’s also instructional in that it teaches and that’s important for us when it comes to defining and describing our Christian faith. It’s so easy to fall prey to the temptation to be the type of Christian that others want us to be, rather than actually learn about what God has to say. In our day people pick and choose whatever they feel like believing, while retaining that all important title of “Christian.” I read an example of this kind of thinking this past week. As I perused the newspaper the title “Why Hillary Clinton Needs Jesus” certainly caught my attention. I thought to myself, “Hey, that’s sounds pretty good, I think she needs Jesus too!” But, clearly the author has a different understanding of what it means to “need Jesus.”
The author writes as someone who claims to know a lot about being a Christian, but it’s as if he hasn’t read the instruction manual. The way in which he talks about using the Christian faith is not only misleading but dangerous, like using a power tool as a toy. “Christian” to this author is about a political affiliation,”passion for social and economic justice,” and using Jesus as a means to acquire someone’s vote. I wouldn’t mind so much about an opinion expressed if it wasn’t so false and didn’t have such a weighty influence in our culture. The problem is that there are a lot of people, Christians included, who allow others, like this author, to define the Christian faith for them rather than taking it directly from God’s Word. The truth is that Hillary Clinton does need Jesus.
She needs Him for forgiveness of her sins.
She needs Him to know truth, and therefore to know right from wrong.
She needs Him for salvation; for a life of eternal value.
And before you think I’m judging from my high horse, I need Jesus for the very same reasons, and so do you.
Because so many are defining faith in Jesus as a solely worldly thing, I find myself thinking about passages like Matthew 9:35 more and more: “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” Such a simple passage; one we might readily gloss over as just scenery and many have. But it’s also a passage with profound implications and direction for our lives. Jesus was busy preaching the gospel and healing sicknesses and diseases. Two parts to His ministry: one spiritual, one physical; and the precise model for us to follow.
Modern scholars and experts, like the one who wrote the newspaper article, want to strip Christianity of its spirituality. They want to turn the gospel message of sins forgiven into a “social gospel.” They want to do away with sin and its implication for our lives, namely that we are lost without a Savior, no matter how much we stand up for: women’s rights, poverty, and immigrants. It’s true that it’s wrong for Christians to “talk the talk” and refuse to act when it comes to helping others. But if people want to call out Christians on that, they have to be ready to do the same in the opposite direction. It also makes no sense for people to claim faith in Christ and say they’re doing good works, yet ignore what the rest of God’s Word says; especially on the most important matters of our lives (yes, there are more important things in life than social reform, personal rights, and immigration). We become hypocrites, in both directions, when we don’t read the instruction manual.
We all need Jesus just as much as Hillary Clinton does. But let’s not reduce Jesus to a ‘social Savior’. Helping the poor, defending the weak, and calling out the greedy are all important things (pay attention here, too, Bernie Sanders). But, Jesus is not some resource to be used to achieve our own personal vision of how to accomplish these tasks. He defines the basis of both spiritual and social justice in His Word, just as He practiced both in His life. It was Jesus who said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…”, and “My kingdom is not of this world…” Likewise, you can’t pick one area of the Christian faith to accept and promote while denying another. The true gospel does not exalt one person’s choice over another person’s life. It was also Jesus who said, “Let the little children come to Me, for of such is the kingdom of God,” and “I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.”
It’s horrific to see political leaders ascend church pulpits to promote their political ideologies and cater for votes. If ever there was a modern version of merchants in the temple that would have to be it. But it’s even sadder to see Christians redefining the rich heritage of their faith, which is rooted in the holy Word of God. They should know better. You don’t re-write the instruction manual because so many people are misusing the tool. You correct the misuse.
May God continue to use His effective Word to change hearts, by relaying the instructions of truth and by promoting the good news of salvation!