Thursday, October 02, 2008

Relating to others -Détente

Recently we had Andrew Cameron visit with us and he began to explore angles on relating to those who do not follow Jesus.

I know that some reading this blog might think that is an odd thing to explore but for the Christian it can be a very difficult issue. When or when not to compromise, how to show love, when to say "YES"? How to say I disagree! It's difficult because most of the time, like most people, Christians want to be liked, to get on with people. Christians don't want to be known as kill-joy's or to sound like ignorant fundamentalists.

At the same time however, they know following Jesus means a commitment to living with his values and being shaped by his words. That simply means there is substance to a Christians belief and this substance shapes responses.

Andrew has generously given me permission to explore some of his thoughts on this blog. The exploration is not meant to be exhaustive but identifies four responses.

Christian ethics does not ask “‘What is good and bad or what makes life worthwhile and sustaining?’ but ‘What is the life of praise in a broken world all about?’ [Brock]

Christians have very great latitude for expressing their life of praise. The NT presents a very practical range of responses to the wider non-Christian social environment. These can act as a useful ‘toolkit’ for imagining what ‘the life of praise’ might look like.

The Bible’s ‘default’ posture for Christians in relation to pagan neighbours seems to be détente. (The word refers to a relaxed friendliness in relationships that could otherwise be strained.)
  • In the OT, something like détente is what Jeremiah exhorts the Babylonian exiles to (Jeremiah 29:7).
  • The situation between the slave and the master is the most obvious case of détente, where the slave wholeheartedly gives himself to the plans and purposes of the masters, even though he knows that his real Lord is Christ (Eph. 6:5f, Col. 3:22). This new knowledge, that the master is really his brother (or at least his equal), and that he really serves the Lord, vastly ‘empowers’ the slave (and far more than institutional change).
  • In 1 Pet. 2:13, Peter exhorts his readers to submit to (literally) ‘every human creation’: what applies to slave-masters also applies to emperors!
  • Christians are uncontroversially able to engage in détente, even with people above them who have different plans and purposes than those of Christ. Hence Romans 12:17 ‘If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.’
Luther once said said: ‘A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.’ Because Christ is lord, sometimes we willingly cooperate.

Why is the Bible so relaxed about this détente? Why is this not a recipe for compromise? …

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Roger -that definition of Christian ethics is great, it prevents us getting into a moral deadlock with those around us, and stops us asking "what's in it for me?" A life of praise, I like it a lot.