So, a funny thing has happened on the way to my attempting to write Guides to all the books in God's Word. As I have been engaged in deep study and reflection on Scripture, I've come to realize that I may have been an issue-oriented Christian for far too long. In other words (and speaking only for myself), I naturally gravitate towards topics, themes, and issues that may very well be biblical, but I give them more weight than is necessary. I think doing so is quite dangerous, and I'd like to explain why. Being an issue-oriented, vs. biblically-oriented, Christian will:
1. Make you out-of-balance.
There’s something to be said about a healthy, well-rounded diet. I love meat, but if I’m not careful, the only fruits and veggies I eat are in pies and casseroles. I love bread, but dairy is important also.
An issue-oriented Christian faces the same challenge. You might become an expert on all the passages that defend the existence of God, the relatively-young age of the earth, an unborn child's right to life, or some other issue, but you will at the same time be ignorant of the other magnificent themes in Scripture. You might be able to give a terrific answer to those who ask about your faith, but you won't know how to do it with meekness and fear because you've never allowed the whole counsel of God to leave you speechless and awe-struck. You just want to win an argument.
And then there's the other side of the coin. You may become a loving, joyful, or peaceful person, but the dark side of that is that you become unhealthy in your love, joy, or peace. True biblical love and taking a stand on an important issue are not mutually exclusive of one another... but that's what some Christians try to tell me. They forget that the same apostle who wrote the magisterial love chapter of Scripture (1 Cor. 13) also wrote with strong language IN THE SAME LETTER concerning the Corinthians' sin of division and tolerance of immorality. I know what it’s like to worry about tithing my spice rack while neglecting weightier issues such as justice, love, and faithfulness in my personal life.
I know, because I’m a recovering issue-oriented Christian.
2. Make you miss out on the good parts of being God's child.
Let's face it: issue-oriented people almost immediately adopt a "me/us vs. the world" mentality. Anyone who isn't as passionate and righteous about gun rights or Holy Spirit indwelling or the right to life or that President Obama is the Antichrist or the systematic decline of Western Civilization must not be faithful Christians like they are. No matter how noble or righteous a cause may be, if you become consumed with that one thing, then you have allowed Satan to erect an idol in your heart and you will miss out on all the wonderful things that come with being God's child.
You know what I have noticed about issue-oriented Christians? They usually aren't filled with simple, Christ-glorifying joy. They usually have an inability to love effectively anyone who doesn't fully agree with them on their pet issue (If you don’t believe me on this, read 1 John, which challenges us to love even those who teach abominable heresy about Christ). They don't know how to rest in the beauty of knowing God cannot love them any more or less. They don't know how to live in the peace that comes from surrendering control of all things to God. Issue-oriented Christians secretly struggle with believing that God really is in control and works everything according to his will.
I know, because I'm a recovering issue-oriented Christian.
Studying the whole counsel of God somehow delivers the medicine I so desperately need in a given moment, even when I don’t realize it. It’s uncanny how a passage can unnerve me because of its conviction or make me weep because of its great comfort. God knows how to direct his people to His Word to give them what they need at just the right time. Issue-oriented Christians, however, tend to study only their pet passages.
I know, because I’m a recovering issue-oriented Christian.
3. Make you miss what God is doing in the world.
Of the four major sects of Judaism in Jesus' day, he had more in common with the Pharisees than any other group. He encouraged to do as the Pharisees said... just not as they did. What separated Christ from the Pharisees, however, is that the Pharisees were issue-oriented followers of God, and so were the Sadducees and Essenes and Zealots. All of them had different responses to the issue of Roman occupation of the Promised Land.
And in the process of being so consumed with that hot-button quasi-religious political issue, they missed the Messiah and Son of God when he was in their midst.
Being an issue-oriented follower of God will cause you to miss what God is doing in the world. God cares about abortion and homosexuality and human trafficking and President Obama and the decline of Western Civilization, but he cares about them no more or less than any other sin, including my own. God is calling everyone to repent, not just Democrats or Republicans or unwed teen mothers or abortion doctors or LGBTs.
God calls everyone to repent because he wants to restore what was lost in Eden: uninterrupted fellowship with and praise from his people. Studying more of Scripture has led me to conclude that uninterrupted fellowship with and praise to God are the most precious things in life. With my eyes fixed on God and my time spent in communion with him, there is nothing that can happen that can truly shake or threaten me.
The funny thing is, the more time I spend with God and his Word, the more offensive abortion and homosexuality and human trafficking and a myriad of other things become to me. God wants me to be the preservative of his values in the world... but not at the expense at the other things that are just as important. On the way to hating all those issues, the Bible also reminds me to love the people in my life, to speak kindly to everyone, and honor everyone as creatures made by the Creator instead of potential fulfillments of my lust.
You can be against abortion and still not love your children effectively. You can be against homosexuality and still be driven by a different type of lust… for money, power, popularity, or approval. You can be against human trafficking and still be enslaved to your bitterness, resentment, or anger.
I know. I'm a recovering issue-oriented Christian.
Would you be willing to reexamine your Bible study habits? Do you find yourself dwelling on particular topics and themes to the exclusion of others? When was the last time you sat in a chair and read through an entire book of the Bible in one sitting?
My prayer for you is that you would allow ALL of Scripture—the OT and NT, the Gospels, Prophets, and Psalms—to saturate your heart so that you will know the peace of uninterrupted fellowship with God and the joy of glorifying him forever.
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