Today I ran across to seemly opposite comments. First, Tim Keller:

“When I talk to my Hindu, Muslim or atheist neighbors I have every reason to believe that they could be better people than me.”

Scott McKnight in “A Community Called Atonement” says

“We need to think of the big picture: Are Christians—taken as a whole—more loving people? Are they more forgiving? Are they more just? Are they more peaceful? Are they really better? . . . I teach a generation of students that believes the credibility of the Christian faith is determined by claiming a confident (if humble) “Yes!” to each of those questions. This generation is tired of an old-fashioned atonement theology that does not make a difference, of an old-fashioned atonement theology that is for individual spiritual formation but not for ecclesial re-formation, and of an old-fashioned atonement theology that does not reconcile humans with humans.” (p. 2)

 

The real question both are asking is “What difference does my faith make when I walk through daily life?” Keller is making a point that we can’t assume we are better than others, and thus self-righteous because we know that our righteousness comes only from Jesus.

McKnight challenges us to not look for ways to keep ourselves safe inside our belief system but to instead challenge ourselves to see all of the gospel and to put action to that faith. “It is the story of God’s embracing grace that makes a person capable of embracing others with grace so that the atonement begins to work for others.’ (p. 3)

 

Both are right. When I look down on people who don’t know Jesus because they act like people who don’t know Jesus I am acting self-righteously and that is soooo wrong. If I can’t humbly see my need for Jesus through the dailiness of life, then I’ve missed the point. When I CAN see my need for Jesus, I think it also forms how I see others – I elevate them and value them just as I value myself.

Maybe this is what Jesus was talking about – Love your neighbor as you love yourself. (See Mark 12:30-31).

When are you tempted to pull away from others, to see yourself in some way better and not worth getting muddied by the ick of life?

Here is another question: When is the most loving response to remove yourself from a situation?

Jesus didn’t call us to an easy religion. He called us to a muddy relationship.

Our actions then, even the humility that Keller talks about comes not from our own actions or our own mental positioning, but from the Holy Spirit shaping us from the inside out. If we haven’t yet been shaped by time with Him, then it is time to back away and let Him shape us. Trying to do it on our own brings about attitudes if not actions that are contrary to the Good News.

Mark 12:30-31 “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”