A couple of weeks ago I had the unfortunate experience of running into a preaching couple on campus. Like your typical southern evangelist that shows up on campus, this pair’s purpose for coming to campus was to damn every person that walks by for being a sinner, and, condemn them to Hell. Last week it was Brother Micah and his wife on campus. Normally I never talk to these people, because there is pretty much nothing you can say or do that will win any favor with them. They will simply pull verses out of context and use the verses themselves as reasoning. Indeed, this past week was no different. Brother Micah was on campus to presumably try to bring others to Christ – a fact for which I actually condoned him for. For too many of us Christians spend day to day as functioning atheists, not looking for opportunities in which we can serve Christ or at least better preparing ourselves for that time. Instead of bringing anyone to even want to learn more about Jesus, Brother Micah initiated a response that I can only imagine is probably a common theme across his campus tours… Women took off their clothes, men kissed other men, and women kissed other women, simply to spite Brother Micah and his wife.
As I mentioned, I normally don’t care to talk to these guys, but a few Tuesdays ago I actually decided to just stop and listen. After Micah had finished talking with someone, I went up to him and said, “Hey, I respect you actually getting out and wanting to draw people to Jesus, but I’m not sure if this is the best way to go about it.” He blew up on me. Indeed he condemned me for everything you could imagine. He said I had no chance of being saved, and even said, “I know you’re not saved because you have not quoted any scripture to me word for word.” Absolutely insane. All I wanted to do was try and have a conversation — understand his perspective even — as to why he thought this approach was better than actually, you know, loving and serving your neighbor as yourself. I unfortunately didn’t get any of that.
Instead, I wonder now what is the basis for his beliefs. And, I am pretty sure, he is using scripture as an idol. Indeed the level of certainty he had was the equivalent to the level of “faith” he had. In John 5:39-40, Jesus says, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” Indeed, Jesus is the bread of life (John 6:35) and all throughout the New Testament we are called to look like Jesus, which looks like the cross (1 John 3:16, Romans 5:8). It is on the cross in which we see the fullness of God’s love demonstrated. But if you’re not looking like the cross but yet judging as only God can judge then you must be wonderfully certain that your knowledge of scripture is what leads your to salvation. Case in point is when he told me I would not be saved because I hadn’t quoted any scripture. Brother Micah lives his life very much like the Pharisees in Jesus’ time in which he has memorized scripture thinking in the scripture itself had life.
Gregory Boyd in Benefit of the Doubt puts it wonderfully when he says (alluding to John 5:39-40), “This episode demonstrates that the way we believe what we believe can transform what we believe into an idol that actually blocks us from getting life from Christ – even when what we believe is completely true! And this happens whenever we are confident we are okay with God because of what we believe rather than because of our relationship with the one true source of life. If what makes us feel okay with God is our confidence in the correctness of our beliefs, then our confidence in our beliefs is, in effect, our god. This is what gives us our false sense of life.”