If you visit this blog regularly, you know that I believe in the authority of the Bible as the final voice regarding what God has to say about our world, where it came from, what’s wrong with it, where history is headed, and how humankind can be restored to God. You know, too, that I believe in the uniqueness and centrality of Christ, and preach that He is indeed, the door, the way, the truth, and the life – the single door through which all must walk for eternal life. I agree with my most conservative friends on all these things.
But I part ways with those same friends, sometimes, when it comes to an understanding of how we live these things out in the real world. In my last post, I began a conversation which I’ll continue next week regarding creation, science, and how we read the first chapters of Genesis. Today, I ponder another challenging issue, namely how Christ followers relate to the cultural practices of non-Christian cultures. For example, today I visited my friend, the acupuncture doctor, for the 2nd day in a row. This man, born and raised in China, lives and works very close to the church I pastor and has, in fact, visited a few times in the past. We became friends, and as a result, I visited him five years ago when I had a stubborn cough that was slow to heal. After two visits the cough was gone.
And yet, there are Christians who are concerned that somehow, visiting an acupuncture doctor will be spiritually damaging.
Last night, after my first visit to treat this cough, I slept through the night for the first time in nearly three weeks. This morning I rose, had my coffee with God as usual, felt no disdain for Christ or the centrality of His work on the cross. The only difference in my spirit this morning, compared with the previous twenty mornings? I was well rested and hence more alert.
Discernment is important. The centrality of Christ is critical and foundational for we who live in His name. But this is different from presuming that all things western are baptized in God’s goodness, and all things from other places are inherently demonic (consider the length of this list, which blends overtly demonic practices with things like reading the Bible slowly) Over the years I’ve heard people tell me that worship music invoking drums is inherently demonic because animism is an issue in Africa. I’ve heard people tell me that Yoga (but strangely, not Mixed Martial Arts) is a problem, because of it’s Eastern Origins. It’s as if Democracy (in its reduction of ‘the best’ to the lowest common will of the people), Capitalism (in its survivalist mentality), Football (with all its violence) are all somehow OK, but things ‘not from USA’ are inherently tainted. That kind of thinking isn’t discernment; it’s cultural imperialism.
In some cases the problem isn’t the thing, it’s what we bring to it, and what we make of it. If a Yoga class is stretching for me, and on the inhale I quote Psalm 23:1, continuing to v.2 on the exhale, isn’t that true worship? If I’m healed from affliction by the use of eastern medicine rather than western medicine, and give thanks to God, who is ultimately the source of all healing, does it matter if the means was needles rather than pharmaceuticals?
My conclusion is that these kinds of things fall into the category of I Corinthians 8, which declares that not everyone has the same kind of liberty to practice these things for various reasons – and as a result, we need to give each other grace and avoid judging, both those who abstain, and those who indulge, recognizing that its neither abstinence nor indulgence that ultimately matters. What matters is Christ being formed in us – a point I’m eager to preach about this weekend after being silenced by that nasty cough most of last Sunday.
Enjoy your weekend… I’ll enjoy mine better for having been to the doctor.