Thursday, June 17, 2010

What Are Christians Capable Of?

It's a loaded question, to be sure. A range of strident and brash atheists have been announcing their preference for the abolishment of religion. They've stretched out a long list of grievances and sins of religion in the past couple thousand years, a list that proves what kind of violence and cruelty Christians are capable of. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris are three of the Christian-condemners that I've been reading and who have captured some of the public's attention.

What do do when faced with those kind of accusations? I'm certainly not personally guilty of any atrocities done in the name of Jesus Christ. But our history does have recorded the many sins of the church. Obviously the Catholic Church has had to publicly deal with some priests who have disgustingly abused children and teens over the past many decades. What are Christians capable? Great sins and much humiliation.

In the story of the early church as recorded by Luke in the book of Acts, included is a story of Ananias and Sapphira. It's a story set in the middle of incredible miracles and glorious expansion of the church. It's a story of corruption and greed, of selfish ambition and vain conceit. It's a story that shows how easily it is for Christians to ruin a good thing. Whether it is some sinful pastor in the evening news or some crime of the church dredged up from the past, whether it is the gossip of some indiscretion or your own struggle with your private guilt, Christians are obviously capable of sin.

But aren't Christians capable of great good? Aren't Christians capable of generous help? Aren't Christians capable of remarkable service? Of course they are. But we don't highlight these wonderful deeds in order to offset our sins, or prove our worthiness, or further our sense of personal superiority. We Christians are honest about our sinful nature, but we are also honest about our redemption. We Christians are capable of confession, of repentance, of making amends, of restoration, of reconciliation, of humility.

Christians are capable of great deeds, but they are also capable of doing good in everyday circumstances.  Those of us who are Christians often look up to heros of the faith and at the same time underestimate our capability to make a difference for good in our own areas of influence. We too often limit what God can do through us. We dry up our own imagination of what we could accomplish through obedience to Christ and inspiration through the Spirit. We often find ourselves struggling between fueling our personal ambitions while also yearning to become a generous grace-giver and healer. If we are going to be capable of great good, it's going to be because we focus on the Way of Jesus.

What are Christians capable of? What are you capable of?

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