May a Christian Do That?

What if you weren’t a Christian?

I asked that question in my most recent devotional (Thoughts for the Week) which I posted on July 14, 2009. (I first asked it some 17 years ago when I wrote it for publication as part of the March 31, 1993, lesson in Christian Light Publication‘s youth Sunday School quarterly.)

Last week, though, I got the following responses via email:

Dear Brother Mark,

I do not understand how this could be something considered “nonchristian” to do…

“design and build my own house” — Many Christians build their homes.

or even this…

“write a novel” — You can be an author and a Christian.

This one I can almost understand, but it is not always true….

“invest in gold” — you can even have an investment to use for the glory of God as a Christian. Storing up your treasures in Heaven and not on earth. Does this mean not saving some money to give your children when they marry? Gold is something that moths and rust can not destroy and it can be a help for you children’s future…college expenses or homes or cars. Things they may need.

Just wondering what your thoughts were on this.

Your logic fails me. Deeply committed Christians have written novels, designed and built their own houses, and served honorably for God and country in the Armed Forces. Are these activities prohibited by anabaptists? I am just asking….

I AM A FORMER MARINE BUT WHAT IN HECK DOES JOINING THE AIR FORCE HAVE TO DO WITH BEING A NON-CHRISTIAN???>?????

I don’t understand your coment that you would join the US Air Force. You make it seem as though this is the wrong thing to do. I served with pride and a Christian for over twenty years and it only increased my desire to become stronger in my faith and conviction to do right and offer my help in Methodist Churches where ever I was stationed. It gave me an opportunity to work with kids programs like little league baseball, boy scouts, Parent Teacher orgns. Teaching Sunday School and to serve my country! Please understand I am not angry with you or at you, I just do not understand the way that you put it in with the other “things” that you would do if you were not a Christian.

So, to what were these subscribers responding? To read the full piece, go here: Consecrated to God’s Service. For reference, though, here are the most pertinent excerpts that triggered the above reader feedback (with some emphasis added this time, for reference):

If you were a non-Christian, how would you live your life? I would throw myself into sin and the world with a passion. Let me list a few things I would do:

  • join the United States Air Force
  • write a novel
  • become a chess grandmaster
  • buy a Corvette, a Gold Wing motorcycle, and a speed boat
  • design and build my own house
  • play the lottery
  • seduce a few women
  • learn karate
  • invest in gold
  • travel for the sake of seeing new places and people
  • subscribe to Penthouse or Playboy
  • co-syndicate with Rush Limbaugh!

Maybe you simply don’t like some of the items I put down because you don’t see why a Christian can’t do them also. Whatever. All I am saying is that the twelve items above would be things I would do (if I could) were I not a Christian.

But praise God, I am not a non-Christian!! I have no intentions of doing any of the above. I would stoop to none of them. My purpose is to live for the King and the Kingdom. I cannot see any of the above fitting into such a purpose in my life.

I would guess that you would also answer that first question as I did — you would just let yourself go. Your specifics would differ from mine, but you would throw yourself into your choices with a passion.

My friend, I challenge you to set Kingdom values in your life. Determine what you want to accomplish for Christ and the Church.

Perhaps I can explain further by selecting two items from my list that were not challenged by any of the above responders:

  • travel for the sake of seeing new places and people
  • co-syndicate with Rush Limbaugh!

Do I think either of those is sin in its own merit? No. So why did I put them in a list featuring “things I would do (if I could) were I not a Christian”? Because as a Christian with my present set of understandings and convictions, I do not see how I could do either of those while living “for the King and the Kingdom.” Am I saying that no Christian may do those two things and also be a Christian? Of course not. I do not know the mind of God for you regarding those two specific items. In a general sense, though, I believe that God wants every child of His to obey this command: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). If that kind of travel or that kind of occupation is not because of seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness, I challenge you to reconsider your involvement in it.

OK, those two items aside, what about these next two?

  • design and build my own house
  • invest in gold

Do I pretend to “de-Christianize” those disciples of Jesus who do either of those? Of course not. But they are on my list of things I don’t see how I could do and still be true to this command: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth” (Matthew 6:19). That said, I own plenty of things. So…am I being inconsistent in my application? Likely so. We all have to draw these lines somewhere; that’s where I’ve drawn mine. Where do you draw yours regarding that command? If your investments or your real estate are drawing your heart away from things above — “seek those things which are above” (Colossians 3:1) — I urge you to reconsider that kind of ownership.

Now to the item on my list that drew the attention of 75% of the respondents:

  • join the United States Air Force

Do I believe there are Christians in military forces around the world (American and otherwise)? Yes. Do I believe Christians should serve in any armed force of these earthly kingdoms? No. That is my personal view. (To answer one of the respondents question — It’s also the view of my home congregation and, as I understand, of historic Anabaptism.) What will God do about His children who serve in an earthly military force? I do not know the mind of the Judge on that score. If you believe a faithful Christian may be a military person, I ask you to consider something I wrote ten years ago: Kosovo and Serbia: A Case Study Regarding Christians in the Military. You might also be interested in something else I wrote five years ago: Lessons in Sacrificial Service from the Fallen.

One closing observation: Upon further reflection, I’m just a bit surprised nobody challenged me on this item from my list:

  • subscribe to Penthouse or Playboy

Are you surprised as well as I? Why or why not?

Whether we are striving to support our own views or researching the view of another, let us each be as those Bereans of old who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).

5 thoughts on “May a Christian Do That?

  1. Well, Praise the Lord nobody is contesting that one! To me, subscribing to that kind of material is subscribing to illicit sex, adultery, fornication, the lust of the flesh…however you want to describe it. And Jesus bluntly states that even looking at a woman to lust after her is committing sex with her in your heart. We who are in Christ have something much better and that is Christian women who we can trust, and they can trust us. We have peace and liberty that the world doesn’t know. We have the Holy Spirit to help us overcome and empower us to live holy lives!

  2. People have tried for too long to “balance” their secular life with their “Christian” life. Each one of us could put together a list of things as you have done, and though they would differ, the point of those activities for each person would be to gratify the flesh, exalt themself, feed the ego. There is no balance between serving God and mammon. In recent years I have learned why I cannot salute the flag. Pledging allegiance to an earthly kingdom is in direct opposition to what Christ teaches. We cannot serve two masters. One of the biggest and most widely propagated lies of the enemy is just that: That you CAN serve two masters. No way. It’s all or nothing with God. Seek first the kingdom of God should read “seek ONLY the kingdom of God.” True followers of Christ will come to understand this.

  3. Designing and building your own home may give you a chance to do it more simply than you might otherwise. I see nothing wrong or unChristian about it. For some, seeking God’s kingdom might include designing their own home.

  4. Something to keep in mind, Mark, when writing things such as your list of “if I were a non-Christian” is that even non-Christians often have some “line in the sand” morally, much like you mention with the designing and building a house issue. While you, being a Christian, are looking at it, essentially, as “what would I do if I didn’t have this moral compass?” those who are not Christians make their choices based on some code of ethics.

    It might be interesting to consider what one does base their moral choices on if they do not have a religious code to base it on. But Paul noted that even the heathen do have some natural revelation of God.

    Just a few thoughts based on what you wrote.

Comment? Sure!

Above all, love God!
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