The Paradigm Matters

I’ve been thinking. Deep thinking, about important matters. I’ve decided to start communicating these thoughts, partially for myself, but if anyone is interested and wants to think deeply, discuss, and take part in the conversation, I will be delighted. So, here we go…

Before I start, I must say this may be like me throwing up verbally on this page. Just as my thoughts come streaming into my mind, I can’t keep up sometimes, so I ask that you work with me on these thoughts. Sometimes you will need to go back or even read on to process, because that’s how my mind is processing the information as well. In other words, I may tend to be “all over the place”, but I have a point. I promise.

It has come to my attention the last couple of years that we have been operating under the wrong paradigm, the wrong world view. This runs so deep that I now see the effects everywhere. I’m going to ask you to open your mind up a bit past what you know or what you feel and truly ask yourself how these thoughts impact your own world view and as a result your thought life, faith, behavior, and relationships.

Two years ago I decided to read through the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, with this one question in mind: What makes Jesus upset?

I read through looking for him to get upset over sin, but actually the opposite was true. Whenever sin presented itself, he was compassionate, he was loving, he was drawn in, and connected. For example in John 8 we read the story of the woman caught in adultery, the teachers of the law and the Pharisees were ready to stone her for her sin, and Jesus asks, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” After all of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law walk away, realizing they are not without sin, Jesus tells the woman, “neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

 What was so striking to me is that he didn’t respond to sin with condemnation or judgement, but rather grace and tenderness. What did seem to upset Jesus were the folks who pretended to be “the good people”, the folks who truly believed that they were not the sinners and in fact had this whole religion thing down pat. These people looked down on the sinners and put people into groups of sinners, tax collectors, and other untouchables.

Here’s the bottom line: I feel like Jesus had an expectation that he would find sinful people. Let that sink in for a minute… Maybe it was his experience as a human that allowed him to see into the human condition. Maybe it was a perspective on the span of human history, but whatever it was, Jesus was not surprised by our sinfulness. He expected it.

As I pressed into this idea over several months, it led me to a thought that revolutionized my thinking about the nature of man, the impacts this thought had on my own faith, how I see this principle, or the opposite of the principle, unfolding in our world, and how ultimately it appears that this principle is… well, the only starting point that we can really start from because the opposite starting point has and is destroying us, literally.

There is no such thing as a good person.

Let that sink in. I mean really sink in. In evangelism and in Christian circles, we use verses like, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” or “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” But, I think we use verses in application to our behavior and not quite to the intrinsic quality of humanity. I think that our perspective has been more one of, “I am pretty much a good person, but I’ve done some bad things.” Or even more dangerous, “I’m not as bad as this person or that person.” I’ll get back to this later.

In reading through the gospels, and thinking through this principle, I was blown away by the story in Luke 18, starting in verse 18. In this passage a ruler asks Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds with, “Why do you call me good? No one is good-except God alone.” uuh.. This begs the question why would Jesus not accept the title of “good”. I would suggest that he is making the point that I am trying to make.

There is no such thing as a good person. 

Again, let that truly sink in.

As I began to let this sink into my heart I began to see our world in a new way. I began to see my need for a Savior from a new helpless perspective. I had a new appreciation and thankfulness for the grace that has been bestowed to me. I also began to see that we, humankind, has been working, at least for my lifetime and quite possibly for the last several hundred years, maybe thousands of years, under the complete opposite world view. We have been operating under a very different paradigm.

The paradigm that we have been operating under is this:

Good people do good things (at least for the most part) and will likewise be rewarded for doing so. Bad people do bad things (at least for the most part) and will be punished likewise.

This is the paradigm we work from, like it or not. We do not work from the paradigm or world view that there is no such thing as a good person.

I began to see this everywhere. It’s easy to see this on social media when folks are blasting people running for office or other political position. It was all over the place during our last presidential election or the circus that was the Kavanaugh hearings. I’ll come back to this.

This is so evident in Hollywood and in our mass media frenzied world. About a year ago, there was an almost witch hunt after anyone who had been convicted, even if not formally, of sexual misconduct. Take for example Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Senator Al Franken, and George H.W. Bush, to name just a few. It seems for some that the punishment for these men would be for them to lose their position, their career, their families, and to be banned forever to a list of what I would call “bad people”. I’ll come back to this too.

We also see this in the wildly controversial topics regarding the LGBTQ community and how the Christian community has responded or not responded to the topic as a whole. The Church’s (note the capitol C) response to this topic has been admittedly poor, in my opinion, if not silent (not all churches by the way). This is also evident in topics of homosexuals being able to serve in leadership in church or ministry contexts or if churches are affirming or non-affirming. I’ll come back to this.

We also see this being played out in topics of social justice. Is it better to protect the country and put up a wall or better to take in the refugee? Is it better to provide medical coverage for everyone or to allow the provision of medical coverage to be left to the individual and free markets. Are the folks in the LGBTQ community deserving of the same freedoms and rights as those not in that community? I’ll come back to this as well.

This can also be seen in the movement towards Progressive Christianity and folks who are “deconstructing” their faith. I assure you, that this movement is a direct response to the predominant world view that good people do good things and will so be rewarded and bad people do bad things and will receive punishment. Again, I will come back to this.

In the meantime, I want you to process the thought. There is no such thing as a good person. Then think through how deep that runs and if we truly believed it, how it would in turn effect, well… basically everything. I propose that we have been operating under a completely different paradigm, that being:

Good people do good things and will be rewarded as such. Bad people do bad things and will be rewarded as such.

I propose that this has us to and into a destructive and hopeless place.

2 Comments

  1. If you put a word in front of another word in order to make the original word something different, you may have failed. Progressive Christian. Social Justice. Good person.
    Only the word on the right is correct.
    You are either Heaven bound or not.
    There is either justice or not.
    No person is good.

    But, definitely agree with you that the lot of us suck. We are all sinners in need of a Savior.

    Liked by 1 person

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