What do you call a person who advocates for the death penalty for prisoners, state sponsored military invasion and bombing campaigns, fear and seek the expulsion of foreigners from the land, condemn certain types of people simply for who they love, subjugate women beneath men, treat creation like a disposable piece of trash, deny scientific truth, and breathe judgement and wrath?
You call them Christian.
What do you call a person who is commanded to love, believes the earth is a rare gift to be stewarded and protected, seeks restorative justice, is told to forgive again and again and again and again, turns the other cheek, loves their enemy, walks in sacrifice, sees strength in weakness, understands that leaders must be followers, feeds the hungry, clothes the poor, receives and distributes grace, visits the prisoner and sick?
You call them a Christian too.
How is this possible? How is it possible that you can call these two very different and seemingly opposing types of people the same thing? It seems ridiculous. It feels wrong.
From the outside of Christianity it is simply a sign of the increasingly out-of-touch state of the faith from reality. From within it depends on who you talk to. In reality it all comes down to how each on reads the core text of the faith – the Bible.
The first type of Christian reads the Bible through the lens of the Old Testament – particularly the Torah – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Everything in the Bible is interpreted through the lens of the law and these books. The New Testament is read and interpreted through the filter and lens of the Old. Christ is interpreted through the lens of the Old Testament.
There is no room for the growth of grace and the transformation of God’s message as the people it is delivered to are transformed.
The second type of Christian reads the same Bible, Old through New Testaments, but when they read it they read it and interpret it through the lens of Christ. Every book from Genesis through the Revelation of John is read through Christ. Every law, every parable, every psalm, every narrative, is read through the lens of Christ and interpreted through him. God is interpreted through Christ because we believe that God is in Christ and that God is Christ.
In my opinion this is the only way to read and understand scripture – through Christ. Every other way is simply wrong and can lead to a stagnation of understanding (or worse still it can lead to harm). A regression. To read scripture without Christ as the central interpretive lens and framework creates a Pharisaic perspective. It creates a faith and understanding that is bound by law,wrath and command. It removes the heart and Gospel from the story of God and God’s people and leaves a cold corpse that spreads death instead of life.
Christ is at the centre of what it means to be Christian…always, in everything. In our failings, in our successes, in our pain to be sure…but more so in the pain and suffering of those who are not us.
Christ the centre of all things.
Christ the centre.