There were a couple of comments on my previous posts that were fantastic and very well thought out. They got me thinking about some other stuff so I want to take a little break and use them as a springboard for some different ideas.
So thanks commenters! (Interesting word: Commenter. Is that like a co-mentor? Like you are joining with someone else to mentor somebody? That was an example of a springboard.)
Here are the comments:
"And if it was proven there was no god tomorrow I doubt you'd change Ben because you strike me as a genuine person, not someone who is acting good to get past the white gates."
"We have broken from God, and our morals and ethics are an effort to be right with him again...to be whole, clean, good."
Even reading these again I realize that I read them incorrectly the first time through. But I am still diving off! Huzzah!
In them I was reminded of MTD. That our morals, good works, and efforts are things that get us to God. The get us past the pearly gates. This may not have been what they were saying but I think that is basically what a lot of people think.
That isn't what Jesus taught. It is not what he lived. That is a religion of appeasement and I want nothing to do with it.
It is an ancient religion. I might say that most religions in history have been variants of that to some degree. They might say that something has gone wrong in the world and in order to escape this dreadful place we need to do enough good to prove to god we are worthy of moving on. OR to survive and live well here we need to prove that we are worthy of it. For a great 90 minute "lecture" on this I highly recommend "The Gods Aren't Angry" by Rob Bell.
Ok, I just kind of lost my train of thought. So I am going to jump back to the comments and dive in a different direction. Blog ADD much?
What do we mean by doing good?
My experience with people talking about being good or doing good is that it is usually a pretty generous definition. They also set a pretty low bar.
Be nice. Don't be a jerk. Don't rape or kill people. Occasionally get involved with a "cause" of some kind.
That is easy. I can do all of those without even trying. Why on earth would you invent religion to get that out of people?
According to Christians, at the center of the universe, of everything, is a God who loves sacrificially. There is a God who sacrifices himself for the people and the world he created and loves.
And by sacrifice I mean death. The God who is the source of all life is also the God who subjected himself to death. He entered into the self-inflicted suffering of his creation and let it do its worst to him.
And then, when it seemed all hope was lost he beat death by raising from the dead.
So when we as Christians say we follow Jesus, it literally means we are trusting that laying down our life for the sake of others is the way to find true life.
God created us to join with him in making something good out of the world. We said no and lost ourselves. We have been feeling the effects ever since. God loves us too much to stay that way. He made a way to join in with him again. The old way, the rebellious way (sin) must be put to death and God must raise us up. Then and only then can we be who we were always meant to be.
This has nothing to do with earning it or proving ourselves. It is God's grace that allows us to be redeemed this way.
(There is a lot I haven't filled out here. If you have questions, please let me know.)
So we have a radically different idea of what "being good" is: Sacrificial love. Laying down what we want for the sake of other people. Realizing that we are sick and broken and need a doctor's prescription to be made well again. Loving those who hate us. Praying for those who persecute us. Treating others like they are more important than we are. And a whole host of other counter-intuitive things.
We trust that this is what we were made for and that when God renews the world the way he renewed Jesus at the Resurrection, those things will be shown for what they are and God will use them to finally heal the world.
So in response to the first comment: I would still be nice (but probably a little less so). I would in general no be a jerk (when I liked the other person). I would not be raping or killing anyone but I can tell you that I would be WAY more likely to use people for my own pleasure rather than seeking to lay my life down for their sake.
I would change if it was proven there was no God.
What you would see is all the little ways I chose evil get magnified. Because I know that I am not a good person. I am selfish. I am lustful. I am arrogant. I probably think I am better than you. I have addictions. I am apathetic toward the suffering in the world. I am concerned first and foremost with my own comfort.
And if there is no God at the center of this who died so I could reclaim what I am supposed to be then there is no reason for me to change.
If this is all there is, then what the hell does radical self-sacrifice get you?
Ok. That is it for now. Again, feel free to comment and ask questions (like, why didn't you talk about the Holy Spirit?). Look what the last comments did!