Why Christianity is Different, the Grace Narrative. Tim Keller.

Dr. Tim Keller’s short 5-min video was so packed with insights about how Christianity is obviously different from every other worldview, and it is the solution to men judging and condemning others, that I had to transcribe it here:-

We Christians are the biggest faith group in the world. Christianity is still twice the size of the next religion at this point in the world and the only way that we’re going to break this is not to say, “what’s wrong with you secular people? Why are you being so mean to us Christians?” You have to recognize that number one, that you’re a big part of the problem; and number two, that we also can be at the heart of the solution.

There are two basic ways of thinking about your self-image. One is what I’m going to call a moral performance narrative. A moral performance narrative says, “I’m okay I’m a good person. I feel significant and I have worth because I’m achieving something.” So if you are a liberal person and you feel like I’m a good person because I’m working for the poor and I’m working for human rights and I’m open-minded, you can’t help in a moral performance narrative your self-image is based on your performance.” As a generous liberal activist person you can’t help but look down your nose at “bigots”. You can’t help but feel superior to “bigots”.

On the other hand, what if you are a traditionally religious person and you go to church and you read your Bible or you go to synagogue and you read your Bible or you go to the mosque and read the Quran and you’re working really hard to be good and to serve God etc? Now, in that case, you have to look down your nose at people who don’t believe your religion and you’re not being is they’re not being as good as you are and maybe it’s just a secular person and you’re a hard-working decent chap you can’t help if your self-image is based on the idea that you’re a hard-working decent chap you can’t help but look down your nose at people who you consider lazy.

But the gospel is something different.

The gospel says Jesus Christ comes and saves you. The gospel says you’re a sinner. The gospel says you don’t live up to your own standards. The gospel says there’s no way you’re ever going to be able to live up to your own standards. The gospel says that you have failed. Your moral failure and salvation only belong to people who admit their moral failures. Jesus came in weakness and died on the cross, and he says my salvation is only to weak people. It only is there for people who admit that you’re not better than anyone else that you just need mercy. If you have a grace narrative; if you say the reason I can look myself in the mirror and I know I have significance is because Jesus died for me though I’m a sinner saved by grace, you can’t feel superior to anybody.

I’ve got a Hindu neighbor in my apartment building and I think he’s wrong about the Trinity. I think he’s wrong about a lot of things, but he could be probably is a better father than me. He’s probably could be a much better man. Why? Aren’t you Christian and he’s a Hindu? Don’t you think you have the truth? Yeah but here’s the truth. The truth is I’m a sinner and I’m saved by grace. So why in the world … I’m not saved because I’m a better man but because I’m a worse man. So what happens is the grace narrative takes away the kind of superiority and removes that slippery slope that I mentioned in the very beginning that leads from superiority to separation to caricature and to passive and then active oppression. It just takes it away.

Now Christians, I’ve got to admit, to a great degree, we operate out of the moral performance narrative and we don’t have to because we got the gospel. Yet to a great degree, we do. But let me tell you what happens when the grace narrative is really ascendant.

You go back to the earliest days of the church.

Here’s the Roman Empire, the Greco Roman Empire and they believed in pluralism. They didn’t believe there was any one God – everybody had their own God, right? We call that today open-minded. Along come the Christians and they say Jesus is the true God. Very, very rigid and yet the lives of the pagans and the Christians were different.

The pagans looked down their nose at the poor. Christians loved the poor.
The pagans were very stratified. They never mixed different classes and social strata. Christians got everybody together. Races together. Classes together. The pagans were extremely oppressive to women. Christians were much more open to the leadership of women.

By the way, you can all see this in Rodney Stark’s book Rise of Christianity.

Why would what looks like an open minded philosophy lead to so much oppressiveness and over here,  the Christians, what looks like, a rigid philosophy, lead to so much peacemaking and so much generosity?

I’ll tell you why.

I remember I remember not long after 9/11 I was reading an editorial to my wife.  I have the Sunday morning paper that says, “you know what the problem with the world is? Fundamentalism. If you’re a fundamentalist, it’s going to lead to violence.”

Of course, I just try to show you we’re all fundamentalists actually.

But when my wife sat there and she says, “That’s ridiculous. It all depends on what the fundamental is!” She says, “have you ever seen an Amish Terrorist?” She says, “you know she says, “listen if Amish aren’t fundamentalist, then there ain’t no such thing!”

But here’s what their fundamental is: –

A man dying on the cross for his enemies. A man praying for the forgiveness of his enemies as he’s dying.

If that’s at the very center of your life, that destroys the slippery slope. If Christians are willing to say we’re going to start acting that way.

Martin Luther King jr., when he saw racism in the south and he looked at all those white people churchgoers What did he say to them? “You know your problem is you guys are too religious. You guys are too conservative. You guys read your Bible. You know we got to get more relativistic and then things will get better in the south.”?

Is that what he said?

No.

He said, “let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” That’s the Book of Amos. He didn’t say go against religion. What he said was, “get true to the religion you got! You don’t need less Christianity, you need real Christianity!” That’s what I’m saying to you.

Why Christianity is Different, Dr Timothy Keller.

When I see scores of young people who call themselves “liberal” and “open” and then are intolerant of other people’s point of view, it really reminds me of the timeless truths of the Bible. That “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jer 17:9) and in the last days, “people will be lovers of themselves” (2 Tim 3:2).

When I see celebrities and Instagram influencers telling young men and women that “you got to learn to love yourself”, I feel sick, because I know that will not give you the value that they truly seek. Justin Bieber once had a song called “love yourself”. Oceans had a song calling for indulgence, “Don’t try to change me, I am what I am.”

Like a drug, youths that feel meaningless in their lives go back to such songs to make themselves feel better. But I have a simple question. What if there is something about you that you actually need to change? What if you can’t love yourself because you can’t help it?

You can fake out your mind temporarily, but you can never fool your soul for long. When a guy courts a woman, the girl is not valuable because someone else wants to show affection. The guy shows affection and loves her because she has perceived value. You cannot force anyone to like or love something.

So when our souls suspect there is something wrong with our lives, or with the world; it may be the most important thing to do something about it, to change your direction, your focus, your worldview. In my case, to find out what the Creator of the universe had to say about me and to seek Him out. The worst thing to do is do nothing and pretend you can psych yourself that you don’t need anyone or any changes to your life.

Here’s is a worldly analogy to illustrate the spiritual reality:- Imagine you are getting sugar-poisoning. You have inflammations on your skin due to too much sugar in your blood. It’s impacting the rest of your life, you can’t be healthy, you can’t be of use to society as much as you could. People are finding you less attractive and less relevant. You are missing out on these higher blessings and higher responsibilities. In your emptiness, do you try to investigate what is the root of your inflammations, to clear the way so you can lead a responsible life or just pretend that you deserve to be happy and thus eat more sugary cakes?

Trying to “love yourself” without searching out your creator and His purpose for you, understanding your deepest identity and potential actualization in Him in the future, is like putting the cart before the horse and then letting the horse go. -Kenneth W K Koh

Similarly, if you don’t love yourself, your soul needs to find the root cause. Our souls always gravitate to love things that we know are valuable. The key is to establish true value in ourselves. Trying to feel better about yourself by telling yourself you should “just love yourself” and pamper yourself more is like eating more sugary treats to numb the pains due to sugar poisoning in your blood. Work needs to be done to identify sugar as the problem, and then discipline to keep yourself fit and healthy to accomplish bigger goals and dreams. The same goes for your spiritual health. You have to do work, not to work for God’s love, but to work to know Him and His purposes more each day. For the more you know Him, the more you are transformed into His likeness, and true value emerges.

Trying to “love yourself” without searching out your creator and His purpose for you,  understanding your deepest identity and potential actualization in Him in the future, is like putting the cart before the horse and then letting the horse go. You will not get where you want to go, a place with deep meaning and satisfaction. You are trying to win a trophy without running the race. It’s empty and counterproductive. When you know where your value comes from, you will automatically value yourself. The world today tells you that you should love yourself and yet gives no good objective reason why.

In life, the path of least resistance is also usually the path of least reward.

In the Grace narrative, our value is no longer how good we think we are or how much better we are compared to others. This is the slippery slope that has no end. It is based on just how much God loves us today, proven by the historical event of Jesus dying on the cross for us yesterday so that we know for sure that no matter what happens, we have a hope and future for tomorrow. And, we know that our potential to be children of God will be actualized, like God has sketched out the blueprint of who you will become, and time will fill up and color the insides.

Our value doesn’t come from temporary or subjective standards like our relative performance, how we look, how desired we are or even how moral we are. There is no rest for our souls if this is where our value comes from.

No one can take this Grace basis for value away, and time will cause me to love myself, not because I am becoming more desirable or better than others, but because I have become more like God, and start to love all God’s creation, including myself.

No one can take this Grace basis for value away, and time will cause me to love myself, not because I am becoming more desirable or better than others, but because I have become more like God, and start to love all God’s creation, including myself. – Kenneth W K Koh

The more I read the Bible and let the Gospel work it’s way in my life, the more my soul knows how beautiful God is. Without anyone telling me so, I understand my own value, not because I became more attractive or better than the next guy but because this beautiful God created me,  designed me and is working with me to actualize the potential of who I was meant to be in-Christ.

My prayer for you is that if there is darkness, may it point the way to your Savior, showing you a whole new world not seen before.

Ken.

Know your part and own it, (10)

One thought on “Why Christianity is Different, the Grace Narrative. Tim Keller.

  1. This is my FAVOURITE analogy, trying to cover up the pain by taking more poison. So true. Thanks for another brilliant post.
    “Imagine you are getting sugar-poisoning. You have inflammations on your skin due to too much sugar in your blood. It’s impacting the rest of your life, you can’t be healthy, you can’t be of use to society as much as you could. People are finding you less attractive and less relevant. You are missing out on these higher blessings and higher responsibilities. In your emptiness, do you try to investigate what is the root of your inflammations, to clear the way so you can lead a responsible life or just pretend that you deserve to be happy and thus eat more sugary cakes?”

    Liked by 1 person

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