Christian liberty and the doctrine of love.
I am a Christian. I was raised in a Christian home, but I chose to make my faith my own as I matured into an adult. My reasons for choosing to maintain a faith in Christ and belief in the Bible will warrant an entry of their own at a future date, but right now I want to discuss something else. The modern incarnation of Christianity is problematic. To be entirely honest, I usually prefer to call myself simply "a believer," because to call one's self a Christian invites a lot of misconceptions.
I read an article this morning that greatly disturbed me. The story came from the New York Times, and gave a piercing critique of the Trinity Broadcasting Network and its financial practices. You can click here for the full story for as long as it is freely available.
I began the draft of this piece before I read the article, but the article provides a convenient jumping-off point for my topic. TBN is the face of modern Christianity to much of the world; they broadcast Christian programming to much of the world. Wherever the TBN feed is accessed, viewers see a nepotistic empire making promises of God's blessings--provided that your "love offering" is sown properly.
Modern Christianity has become irrevocably tied to the culture in which it existed. Not even religion can exist within the environment of a profit-oriented culture without taking on aspects of such a culture. In America, the prosperity doctrine has turned Christianity into a product.
But Christianity did not start as a product! It was not meant to be a product! True belief is not in the false bastardization of the real thing, but in the original!
Prosperity doctrine is a purely Western invention. It has nothing to do with scripture or the gospel; it is the belief that individual financial success is decided in the life of believers by God based on their faith and attitude.
This line of thinking is not only non-Bliblical, but extremely narrow-minded. If it is true that one's faith determines their financial wealth, then there are thousands of South American, African, Asian and Middle Eastern believers who must believe in a lie, because they die for their faith every day, and they do so in material poverty.
Since prosperity theology is an ignorant fabrication of what a real relationship with the Lord should be like, I would like to offer a few verses of actual scripture to remind us of what true belief is about. There is a specific way in which the Bible tells Christians to relate to one another: through love.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
If ye love me, keep my commandments.
And what commandments are these?
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.
He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?