Acts 21: The False Comfort of Simple Absolutes

With God Daily | Skye Jethani | Daily Bible Reading

Skye Jethani writes a daily bible devotion entitled ‘With God Daily’ that is available here.

Yesterday, he championed doubt, and faith that is mature enough to question God.  This is exactly what I hope Dislocated Christians advocates, it is a space for people who wonder at the world, and want to discern how God is involved more deeply.  It is a space for questions.

Here are Skye’s words:

Paul’s messages about the Old Testament law, the temple, and Jewish tradition were nuanced and complicated. Zealous people do not tolerate nuance. They demand simple, soundbite declarations of loyalty. You are either with them or against them; they see the world in absolute categories of right and wrong, good and evil, us and them. Paul resisted these oversimplifications and paid the price for his thoughtfulness.

When he arrived in Jerusalem, Paul worshiped at the temple to show he was not, in fact, against Jewish law or tradition. It didn’t matter. The mob had already made up their minds about Paul, and they caused such an uproar in their attempt to kill him that the Roman soldiers had to intervene.

Life is messy, our world is complicated, and the mysteries of God cannot be reduced to slogans. However, when people feel afraid and oppressed, as the Jews did under Roman occupation, these realities are quickly abandoned for the false comforts of simple absolutes. We see the same tendency today. I am sometimes asked by zealous Christians who feel marginalized: “Are you for the conservatives or the liberals?” “Are you for religious liberty or LGBT rights?” “Do you support Black Lives Matter or the police?” If I try to respond with nuance, or reframe an issue to acknowledge its complications, the inquisitors are often quickly frustrated. It’s also why I rarely engage such questions on social media.

We’ve been conditioned to think God’s view on every matter should require no more than 140 characters to communicate, or even better—a single emoji. Those of us who refuse the false comforts of simple absolutes, like Paul, are branded as sellouts, wishy-washy, or the most insulting label today—elites. We now celebrate unthoughtful and un-nuanced opinions as the hallmarks of a strong faith when they are, in truth, clear signs of puerility and spiritual retardation.

Strong words, but I am sure he is right.  As I get to know God, it seems to me that he enjoys it when we talk with Him about difficult issues, and He rewards us as and when we seek him.

If this post has been helpful to you, please let me know by liking it, sharing it or following this blog (top of the sidebar on the right).  My aim is to build a community of people who support each other as they work out what it means to live with faith in the world.  Sometimes they may feel like Dislocated Christians.

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