Thursday, November 15, 2012

Orthodoxy and/or Orthopraxy?

Words are powerful things. Words can hurt, can heal, can bring laughter, and can bring extreme pain. I have realized this truth more so as I have written in this blog and as I go on with my year of living deliberately it is becoming more and more difficult to write, not easier as I thought it might. I think that words read devoid of the writer's intention of inflection, pauses, etc (ie voice) can mean different things to different people and be interpreted in as many ways as the people reading it. And so I write with trembling the following thoughts.

What is more important: orthodoxy or orthopraxy, that being right beliefs or right practice? This conundrum has come from a few different sources in my life lately. I have heard a few times recently that some people/churches are very concerned about our young adults because they are unable to "articulate the gospel" using the correct terminology. I also have this issue as I watch three of my own children at this stage of life begin to question, challenge and articulate their faith in God using some different words (beliefs?) than I use. I have also had some questions directed to me about some of the things I have said in this blog because of the orthodoxy of some of the writers I have quoted. Words are powerful and I am choosing mine very carefully today.

I heard a good sermon on Sunday on a passage I have heard and read many, many times. It was from Luke 10:25-37; the parable of the Good Samaritan. In summary, an expert in the Jewish law asked Jesus what was required to inherit eternal life. Jesus turned the question back to him and said what does the Law say? And, according to Jesus, the man answered correctly: "Love God and love your neighbour." This man's beliefs were right, according to Jesus...but, Jesus didn't let him stay with his belief. He told him to "DO" this belief to get life. As the saying goes, "therein lies the rub." The expert then asked Jesus, in hopes of getting himself justified, "Who is my neighbour?" Rather than answering the question directly, Jesus tells a parable where a man gets into a bad state and the only person who helps him out is a person that the hearer of this parable, the expert in the law, would have considered as being totally without "right belief." And Jesus turns the original question of "who is my neighbour?" into "who was the neighbour?" Jesus, in essence, told this expert in the law, this man who knew all the right answers, to behave like the despised, mocked, frowned upon Samaritan, because the Samaritan had the right actions.

As I have thought about this during the week, I was also drawn to the parable Jesus told which is recorded in Matthew 21:28-32. This parable talks about two brothers, one who says the right thing, but doesn't do anything about it, and the other brother who says the wrong thing, but who changes his mind and does the right thing. Jesus then tells his listeners, which I think are still the Jewish religious leaders addressed in the earlier verses, that people are entering the kingdom of God who were condemned by the religous, but because they repent (change action) they are getting in ahead of those with the "right" answers.

And then I found myself singing the little song "The wise man built his house upon the rock..." I looked up the passage where that song came from and it's from Luke 6:46-49. Who does Jesus say is wise? The one who does what Jesus said.

Maybe my question isn't the right one. Maybe it's not a case of which is more important, orthopraxy or orthodoxy. I think it's you can't really have one without the other, or at least you can't have orthodoxy without orthopraxy. (Maybe you can have orthopraxy without orthodoxy...hmmm, have to think about that.) The Samaritan did not have the right "belief" according to the religous of the day, but he did the right thing. The one son said he wasn't going to do what his father asked, but then did and he was commended. The one who just spouts off right answers and knows all the orthodox beliefs, but does nothing, will have his house washed away in the flood.

And by the way, the sermon was by my son and I'm so very proud of him and humbled as it made me dig deeper. Thanks Joel!