Some people are never satisfied, and it is interesting to read about what people said about Jesus and John the Baptist in Luke 7.
Luk 7:31 And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like?
Luk 7:32 They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept.
Luk 7:33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil.
Luk 7:34 The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!
Luk 7:35 But wisdom is justified of all her children.
John the Baptist was criticized for living off the grid, and Jesus was criticized for engaging culture. They were both on different extremes, and clearly Jesus was not condemning John. Perhaps that tells us something about our Christian lives.
Certainly, there are beliefs that make someone a Christian. The obvious example is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You cannot be a Christian and not believe in historical legitimacy of the great miracle. That is a core part of mere Christianity as termed by CS Lewis. There are things that need to be acknowledged for one to be a Christian. Some other tenets that fit under this umbrella are the reality of sin, the existence of God and the necessity of forgiveness.
However, think about what happened in verse 32. Jesus makes the comparison to children who are upset that the other children are not dancing while they play music. Some are upset because the others perhaps don’t feel like participating. Maybe they had a difficult day, or maybe it is simply that they do not like the music. Whatever the reason, it does not change the fact that they are all children.
Similarly, one way this plays out in the modern church is similarly through our taste in music. Music is not one of the mere Christian beliefs that we all need to agree on. Some churches like modern worship, some only do hymns accompanied by a piano or organ (which were ironically modern at one point) and there are even some churches that don’t believe in instruments whatsoever.
Is there a difference? Sure, it is obvious that there is a difference between these groups of Christians. It is not a difference that makes one Christian and one not a Christian.
I think that is kind of what Jesus was trying to get at here. Following Christ might look a little bit different for different people. Certain core beliefs will necessarily be the same, and the fruit of the spirit should be developing in all situations as the believer walks with Christ. However, our lifestyles might be slightly different, and our faith might come out in different ways.
I was reading Jeremiah 9, and I couldn’t help but think about how a lot of what was happening to Israel and Judah in this time is happening in the United States today. As we know from previous chapters, people had been moving farther and farther away from God, and in this chapter, we see this beginning to impact their behavior.
Jer 9:2 Oh that I had in the desert a travelers’ lodging place, that I might leave my people and go away from them! For they are all adulterers, a company of treacherous men.
Jer 9:3 They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, declares the LORD.
Jer 9:4 Let everyone beware of his neighbor, and put no trust in any brother, for every brother is a deceiver, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.
Jer 9:5 Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity.
Jer 9:6 Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me, declares the LORD.
As the people begin to get farther away from God, their morals begin to fall apart. Why is that? They begin to go away from objective morality, and they start to embrace subjective morality based on apparently whatever they want to do. They slander if they want, or they lie if they want. It seems as if the standards have gone away.
We are in a similar boat in America right now. For most of our history, even if some people were not Christians, it was culturally accepted that Christian morality was a good way for people to live. It had objective standards that people understood and were willing to follow. Unfortunately, we are now moving into a similar type of subjective era.
People want to give up objective morality because they would rather do whatever they want based upon their own minds. This is dangerous territory to move into.
If you surrender objective morality, then what basis do you have to prosecute criminals? How can you say that anything was wrong if all of those decisions are made based on what an individual feels? What if I feel like murder is a perfectly acceptable activity? Without an external, objective standard that murder is always wrong, it is just your opinion against my opinion. You can’t prosecute on that basis.
Even if you argue that laws ought to be based on what the majority felt was right at the time, then would we be comfortable saying that murder was right if the majority of people believe that? I think that you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who holds this position.
Subjective morality is a dangerous field. With nothing definite to plant your belief system on, you forfeit any right to define anything as morally wrong. As CS Lewis expounded in The Abolition of Man, we don’t seem to be able to do that very well as human beings. We have this innate Tao that informs us of basic morality and seems to exist beyond just what someone feels. They seem to cross cultures and effectively are more than just right as defined by one particular people group at one particular time.