A La Carte Christianity
One of the things about me that annoys my wife Angie (and there’s probably quite a list) is that I’m so picky about food and to add insult to injury, have very boring tastes. For example, when we are out at a restaurant, Angie will often select the Prix Fixe menu if they have it; usually it’s a good deal (and she can sneak in desert without guilt), whereas I want to select the individual items on my plate. My pedestrian “A La Carte” approach to dining is an ongoing source of discord, though fortunately not a serious one.
What is a little more troubling though, is that it seems a significant number of people who identify as Christians are taking an “A La Carte” approach in matters of our faith; that is, being very selective about which of Jesus teachings to accept.
In our world, frail mortals that we are, it’s not unusual for us not to say what we mean, perhaps to even equivocate a little. It might be as simple as falling short on our New Year’s resolution or perhaps not following through on a commitment to someone. Moreover, in every commercial transaction in which we engage, we are never sure if we are getting the full, honest story (caveat emptor!) The companies selling us stuff have so much fine print, qualifiers, terms and conditions that we are never quite sure if they really mean what they say. Jesus however did not suffer from these inadequacies and was quite clear about what it means to follow Him. And in case we still didn’t get it, He backed up His message with concrete actions.
In Matthew 25, Jesus says that those who clothed the naked, cared for the sick, welcomed the stranger, and so forth, who did these things for the least of His brothers, did it for Jesus, and will be blessed by His Father. Nowhere is it mentioned that Jesus added a bunch of qualifiers perhaps like “you should only care for the sick you deem worthy of healthcare, or who have a job, or live life to your standards”. Nor when speaking about welcoming strangers is He reported to have said “well yes, but only welcome those who look like you, worship like you and those whom you can accommodate without disrupting your lifestyle”.
Clearly, and rightly so, we are nation of laws. Also, we need to have priorities on how we allocate resources. However, it’s very important to ensure that our priorities and laws all align with God’s laws, and that when we as Christians make decisions on where to allocate our resources, we use as a reference guide, Jesus teachings. It wouldn’t surprise me that Jesus might have raised His eyebrows at a tax cut for large corporations and the wealthy when so many are on food stamps; or perhaps scratched His head at a proposal to construct a wall to block people, many of whom are innocents fleeing for their lives, from entering our country.
Some of us, and I’d lump myself in this group, can at times ignore the challenges of our world and feel we are doing our bit if we go to church and say our prayers. However, it is worthwhile to note in Matthew 27, that Jesus says, “Not everyone who says Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven but only those who do the will of my Father”. In other word’s we can’t be all talk and no action, even though our actions may not be well received by those who benefit from the status quo.
There’s a line from a popular hymn that goes: “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love”. And while we may not all be cut out for public protests or big gestures, it might be useful periodically to ask, how will they know you are Christian?