Christianity has always been a defensive faith, even from birth. Our lectionary texts this week bear witness to this. In Acts 17.22-31, we find Paul in Athens making an argument. He is trying to convince the Athenians that they had been worshiping his God all along and that, if they did not soon recognize, they would be condemned. In 1 Peter 3.13-22, Peter exhorts Christians to always be ready to defend themselves. And in John 14.15-21, we get an Advocate, a defense attorney to stand by us in the trials to come. It should be no surprise that the history of the faith is one of heresies and excommunications and denominational splits.
And it should be no surprise that the current environment is so toxic. Christians often understand themselves to be under threat from a variety of sources. Despite retaining far and away the majority in this country, Christians understand themselves as victims with diminishing freedom to practice their faith. Whether pernicious holiday greetings or enforced gay cake baking or science classes that teach science, the world is out to get Christians. Clearly.
Perhaps we should pay a little attention to the context in which the Christian Testament was written. Christianity was in a formative process. The first followers of Jesus were Jews. They didn’t think of themselves as Christians, but Jews who had witnessed the coming of the promised Messiah. They were ejected from the synagogues as their own self-identity developed in contrast to the dominant group. So the Christian Testament is a testament of antagonism and strife. It is the minority view over against the majority view. Christians must recognize that this is no longer our context.
More importantly, Christians must look past the defensiveness to see what is being defended. In Acts, Paul speaks of a God that transcends all boundaries so that we will, too. Peter asks us to defend, not our hatred, but our hope, to account for that which drives us to gentleness, reverence, and a good conscience. And John’s Advocate faithfully stands by our side in love so that we might bear witness to the presence of God. The defense that Christianity requires is the steadfast conviction that we are all children of God, deserving of love and all good things.
Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we speak of the unknown that God that calls to us from beyond our own bounds.
Grace & Peace,