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Ugly Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Evil

Is holiness a formula? Is there an algebraic equation where variables like sin, grace and truth can be plugged in and equal salvation? The answer is no. But many times, it seems that Christianity is presented to us in this manner. Christianity is not an equation; it is a process. If Christianity were a formula, the New Testament would be full of them. But unfortunately for the lazy thinker, Jesus spoke in narratives and parables and asked questions, leading people to come up with their own answers. We don’t find any “1 + 1 = holiness” equations. Holiness is discovered through a painful narrative called life, which has a guide called the Holy Spirit. This issue is incredibly complex, and we need to find some sort of clarity. What you feel on this subject seems to be determined largely by what church you went to and what beliefs have been thrust upon you. If you come from a conservative background, you seem doomed to either reject your church’s teachings or wallow in cultural irrelevancy because the culture you’re trying to reach is off-limits to you. The liberal end of the spectrum is equally irrelevant because churches like these do not seem to be offering the world anything different. However, there is a balance. The issue is finding the balance between legalism and worldliness. And essential to finding the balance between legalism and the world is using the Holy Spirit and the Bible as guides. Of course there is absolute truth, but beyond clear-cut circumstances, we must be careful of dangerous, blanket statements inferring that someone is in sin because of certain things they listen to or watch. I’ve heard people claim that anyone who owns a CD with explicit lyrics or views profane movies is sinning. But we simply cannot make that judgment call. Only God can. Statements like these bring the Christian community dangerously close to completely disengaging a lost society for the sake of comfort. Hearing statements like that is also disappointing because it reinforces a mentality that causes scared Christians to further retreat into their bubble of obscurity. We must live in the world, among the world, engaging the world, or the world won’t ever find the full life that Jesus offers. Truth can transcend profanity and often aid it. A perfect example of this is U2’s song “Wake Up Dead Man” off their 1997 album Pop. The lyrics read: Jesus, Jesus help me, I’m alone in this world, and a f—ed up world it is too. For many, those words are immensely powerful and, in the context of the song, convey emotion that would be nearly impossible without the profanity. Once again, that is completely relative to the listener. If someone accuses another of sinning for listening to such a song, they are questioning the way the Holy Spirit is working in that person. “Ugly” does not necessarily mean “evil.” Following this reasoning would mean that if you viewed Schindler’s List, you would be immersing yourself in sin. Yes, the film is filled with ugly, sinful acts, but it also offers a wonderful, eternal message. The same could be said for Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line, Tim Robbins’ Dead Man Walking, Ikira Kurosawa’s Ran and countless other movies. The Bible is full of some of the most perverse and X-rated stories of any book ever written. An R-rating would be a stretch for many parts of the Bible, and Christians consider it their guidebook. The simple fact is that truth can be beautiful, yet it can also be very ugly. We have to take the good with the bad, or we will be getting a distorted impression of what the truth really is. We have to follow what the Holy Spirit is telling us on this. The tension between purity and knowledge is a very challenging, thin line to walk. Finding this line is imperative for us because it ultimately affects our holiness. We can’t give up on the world for the sake of attaining holiness. On the other end of the spectrum, we can’t go hog wild in the world in the name of saving it. We must continuously pursue the painful tension between the opposites because that is what we are called to do. Yes, there are absolute no’s in the Bible, but there are also gray areas and relative definitions. That is why we have a mind, a conscience, a gut and the Holy Spirit. Putting holiness into an equation of only do’s and don’t’s didn’t work for the Pharisees, so we as Christians need to stop adapting those principles to the Church today. RELATED LINK: MISSING THE MARK READ MORE GOD | POST COMMENTS BELOW

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