I recently have read several arguments regarding the importance of orthopraxy – living a behaviourally “right” life – over orthodoxy – living a doctrinally correct life.
Don’t misunderstand me here. Our behaviour is vitally important in our walk with Christ. Faith, James tells us, requires works to demonstrate it. Even Satan believes in God – he has faith God exists.
A morally “good” existence is not enough. To be enough we need to look at the reason for the orthopraxy. What underscores the behaviour? Ghandi lived a morally “good” life. But his actions alone are insufficient. We are all fallen beings, and no matter how much good we try to do in this world we can never overcome the fact we were born into an inheritance of death. Adam’s bloodline was stained with Adam’s sin against God. We were separated from God because of that. Sin is in us all and no amount of good deeds, saving the whales or only eating vegetables will overcome that. Even ensuring an end to conflict and eradicating poverty would be insufficient.
That was the point of Jesus.
I follow a group on Facebook called “Kissing Fish”. It is a page advocating “Progressive” Christian concepts. I disagree philosophically with many of the arguments put forward there, but there is wisdom included in the writing that cannot be ignored. While recently the page featured an article about a question fundamentalists cannot answer – that being “Why would God care more about what we believe about God than how we live for God?” I felt compelled as – for want of a better term to describe myself, and I am open to suggestions – a “fundamentalist” Christian offer an answer.
I won’t repeat everything I wrote here – the page is open to view on facebook – but basically it boils down to this: the argument offered was that right actions are more important than right beliefs. I have to disagree.
Right actions in God’s work through us are born from right beliefs. Every change in the Bible from Old Testament including David’s repentance over murder through the salvation of Zaccheus and Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road involved a fundamental change in the belief – the orthodoxy – of the individual which then led to repentance in it’s fullest form and a total change of behaviour.
Our actions, like our speech, comes from the fullness of our heart. If we ask in the Holy Spirit and allow Him to fill our heart then our actions will be the resulting Godly action – although admittedly it’s a lot harder than it sounds. I ask God in but still harbour ill feeling towards my next-door neighbour for his intolerance of aspects of my situation, namely my dogs barking. It seems small, and it is petty, but it gets in the way of being full of God and being able to reach out to him in a Christ-like manner. On a bigger scale the abuser of a friend’s child goes on trial in a few weeks and my anger toward the individual for their actions burns fiercely. So fiercely I don’t know if it’s anger with the man – ungodly anger – or over the action. God’s anger against the abuse of an innocent child cannot be denied – His anger at the action that is. Yet He will still offer forgiveness and acceptance if this perpetrator truly repents and accepts Jesus. The question is whether we are able to. It’s a very personal question for me, and one I struggle to answer. Right now I find I cannot forgive the action and I am unable to separate the sin from the sinner in my heart. That action, although internal, separates me from God in that area and allows a foothold for our enemy in my life.
My belief that I need to extend forgiveness to those who have wronged me and the people I love comes from the Christ Paradigm that entered my heart when I accepted Jesus nearly 30 years ago. My ability to live this paradigm fluctuates. And it fluctuates in huge waves.
Oddly, I find it easier (usually) to forgive those who have wronged me directly than those who have betrayed and hurt the people I love. My paradigm is still one that seeks to exact revenge on the wrongdoer rather than forgive and let God handle it. It’s a stronghold in my heart that needs to change.
As a writer who is not afraid to speak out against false religion like Islam I sympathise with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo killings in France. I will not be silenced, but neither will I declare “Je Suis Charlie” because I am not. I don’t seek to make fun of another person’s religion, simply to try to demonstrate through my words and actions that they are mistaken in their beliefs. To this end I will use satire, humour, sarcasm and even self-deprecation to get the message of the Gospel across. There is no more important role that Jesus has given us than to be ambassadors of His Name.
How we go about changing the world begins with a change in ourselves. I’ve talked a bit about me in this article, my struggles, my beliefs and my paradigms. Some of them match the orthodoxy beliefs I want to live by. Some are a work in progress. But in any area, before we can demonstrate orthorpraxy, our orthodoxy, the core of what we believe that fuels our actions, needs to be correct.
Faith without works is dead.
Works without Faith is pointless.
Check your paradigm – and do it regularly.