Recently a good friend of mine mentioned acting a certain way based on a Christian principle. Immediately, a question came to my mind: Should I live by Christian principles? Should I live by principles at all? To some degree, we human beings seem to develop principles and live by them, almost naturally. We who are Christians seem to promote all kinds of principles. In fact the whole world doesn’t seem to have room to store all the principles we Christians come up with.
I have always made a rather bold claim: I do not live by principles. But really, isn’t this just another principle? Lately I’ve become keenly aware of my negative attitude torward principles, education, academics, philosophy, religion, doctrine and even theology. I have tried to live a Christian life free of such things. But I have found that I am now on an island by myself, so to speak.
Why do I have such a problem with these things? Part of it may be due to the number of times I’ve studied certain Bible passages, such as Mark 8:33 “But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Perhaps a more underlying reason is that any principle I thought I had was melted away as my father slowly died of Lou Gehrig’s disease in the late 80’s. There is no principle or theology that can comfort the soul in such times. Another reason may be that I have seen principles, theology and religion used for purposes that are contrary to the love, grace and truth Jesus clearly demonstrated. I have seen religious principles used to control and manipulate more slyly that even the best Vegas card dealer!
Yet none of these possible reasons justifies my lack of respect for religious principles. I must be “connected to the ancient Christian faith and doctrines”, as someone recently told me. Why do I need to struggle so hard to re-invent Christianity? Christianity was established long ago. I really just need to discover it. I am starting to realize in a big way that Christian life is not about submitting to a particular church’s rules or inventions. Christian life is (and always has been) a journey. It is a journey of faith, a journey with fellow believers and a journey toward a glorious meeting with Jesus Christ my Lord! This journey has been taken up many a time before me. I am realizing I need to respect those journeys and races of faith run before me.
For example, I am excited about G.K. Chesterton’s journey. His quotes are nothing short of amazing! He once said, “Just going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.”
Some quotes more relevant to today’s topic by Chesterton: “No man who worships education has got the best out of education… Without a gentle contempt for education no man’s education is complete.” Perhaps my disdain for principles isn’t such a bad thing. I need to contain such disdain however, and not let it cloud my mind from the wisdom and knowledge of theologians, philosophers and educators.
This Chesterton quote stood out to me today: “Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.” How will I know if someone knows what they are talking about when I hear a message that supposedly came from God? Well, I must educate myself. So I now dedicate myself to learning the ancients!