As we come to the close of a time of year that so many Christians have sacrificed, fasted, and symbolically knelt through, I think it is important that we hit on one of the most toxic theological teachings of modern Christianity and Ancient Christianity alike. In fact, this thread of theological misunderstanding is woven through all religions.
- Bad Theology: If I want to be saved, I must do everything just right.
But bad theology is no laughing matter.
This poor interpretation of Scripture is at the root of so many religious systems around the world and even in many Christian Denominations. It is the belief that if I do everything that my spiritual leaders are telling me to do, then I will be able to please God and then God will love me and allow me into heaven.
It is the belief that God has a list of things that you must do perfectly or you might lose your salvation. You must perfectly understand His word as so and so does. You must believe the right things about God or you don’t really know God. And all these things serve to make us into beings who simply check the boxes off so we can get in. Did you say the sinner’s prayer? Did you get baptized? Did you get baptized in the Holy Spirit? Did you go to church every time the doors were open? Did you put the ash on your forehead? Did you fast from meat on Fridays and go out to the bar for the fish fry? Did you pray the Lords prayer every day? Did you read the bible every day? Did you take communion? Did you go to Sunday School? Did you give more than the guy sitting next to you? The list goes on and on and we think it is as though God is going to give us this pop quiz on how did on this list when we get to the pearly gates.
The problem is we all will inevitably fall short of any lists. And the even greater problem is that some of us become really, really skilled at keeping our lists.
- The result of this specific bad theology is always SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS
We begin to give ourselves value based upon how well we check off the boxes. And we all have different boxes! After all, these boxes are what separate us and in our eyes make us more right than the other church down the street.
We put a higher value on this guy over hear who speaks in tongues. But Betty Boop over here who has never spoken in tongues we view her as a second-class Christian.
Or we celebrate the person who comes to the altar in response to Jesus with loud cries and prayers, but the one who sits quietly in their seat processing and repenting deeply, and silently in their heart we consider them to be less spiritual.
We each create these boxes of our self-righteousness checklist. And if someone doesn’t check that box off, well…. They must not be a born again Christian. Self-righteousness creeps in very craftily unnoticed into all of our lives and we have to be careful to guard our hearts from it.
- What do we do when our Self-Righteousness lets us down?
A few days after Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem, he sat down with his disciples and began to explain to them that he must be crucified to save the world. And we see that all of the disciples struggled with self-righteousness.
- Jesus>ology: When we see ourselves for who we truly are, Jesus steps in.