I know there is a lot of commotion in the world right now about what religion one practices. The issues are multi-faceted, for some have chosen to live as though there is no alternative but to be violent in the face of anyone or anything which opposes their view. I cannot condone their "religious pursuit", but I can offer a peaceful practice on my part which encourages us to live as positive examples of God's love in this world. I hear of hate crimes being committed in which people do things ranging from spray painting graffiti on the doors of the worship places, to protests which get heated and require police intervention to keep from being a full-fledged riot of sorts. As strongly as I feel about the faith I have in Christ Jesus, I cannot see the need for this type of response to the beliefs of others. It is indeed a tragedy for some to follow beliefs which encourage the destruction of property and life - it is safe to say I don't ever condone this type of action as part of any religious pursuit. I don't believe we should focus so much on the "sin" of the "radicals", but on the "sinner" in each of us which begs for the intervention of a Savior to redeem us from our sin.
We Jews came to Christ to be made right with God, so it is clear that we were sinners too. Does this mean that Christ makes us sinners? Of course not. But I would be wrong to begin teaching again those things that I gave up. It was the law itself that caused me to end my life under the law. I died to the law so that I could live for God. I have been nailed to the cross with Christ. So I am not the one living now—it is Christ living in me. I still live in my body, but I live by faith in the Son of God. He is the one who loved me and gave himself to save me. I am not the one destroying the meaning of God’s grace. If following the law is how people are made right with God, then Christ did not have to die. (Galations 2:17-21 ERV)
The issues are age-old. Someone comes into a new faith, leaving behind some old way of living and making their choices in life. Anyone who finds "faith" in any religious pursuit is this way - they leave some old way of living behind and take up with new choices and purposes. They may be totally misguided on occasion, but nonetheless, this "exchange" of purpose and practice takes place. The point is we all "leave" something to "embrace" something else. As Christians, we have chosen to leave a life which was lived by a self-directed means with a focus clearly not on others, but ourselves. We chose to embrace a new way of seeing things and others around us - through the eyes of grace and not the eyes of judgment. We "came to Christ to be made right with God". Did you ever stop for a moment to consider what you "gave up" when you "came to Christ"? If we examine our hearts and minds a little, we will begin to realize we think we gave up a whole lot of stuff, but in fact, we didn't give up that much. Our faith brings us into a new plane of living and making choices - we just left the old way of doing things behind. If we go back to the old way of making choices, expecting to live on this new plane with those practices from the old way of living, we will live confused and misguided lives.
We die to the law - complete with the messed up belief that we could keep all the rules included in any set of religious rules - and come to Christ. We live for God as a result of letting go of those set of rules. As long as we are more focused on the "practices of religion" rather than the relationship we are brought into in Christ Jesus, we will continue to mix the methods of the old life with the new. This lends to confusion and frustration. As long as we focus on the rules of the law, we destroy the power of grace. I don't know about you, but any time I have tried to keep the rules perfectly, I see how imperfect I really am! I am not the best at keeping all the rules - sometimes I just need to break out into some rebellion and do things my own way! I don't think I am alone here, so this is why we must band together in this pursuit of grace. We cannot do this apart from grace helping us to live at peace with each other - something missing in many of the religious pursuits of those who become violent against others who they are intolerant of. Are there things we can be intolerant of and still be operating in this plane of grace?
We are told to not compromise our trust in God. To do so is to clearly operate outside of the boundaries of safety he has placed in our lives. We are told to not engage in sins which violate our body because the body is the temple of God's Spirit - therefore any compromise to this is clearly outside of the boundaries of safety in our lives. The "rules" we adhere to as Christians are essentially to protect us from the destructiveness of our own sin nature - something for which grace provides a barrier or covering. Whenever we keep trying to do things in our own strength or power, we are outside the boundaries of grace - for grace is essentially rooted in trust and reliance. Paul's writing to the Galatian church was not to condemn those who continued to mix the old way of living with the new way of grace, but to remind them of the absolute need to make a separation from the old way of rule-keeping. Mixing the old with the new just muddies the waters and doesn't help us to embrace or live in grace. Just sayin!