By Chris McLaughlin, Creative Director
If you’ve ever been by my office while I’m listening to music you probably know that one of my all time favorite musicians and artists is Johnny Cash. Cash came to faith in Christ at an early age, and even though he got off track during his rise to fame with many vices, he would become one of the most influential and outspoken Christian celebrities later in his career. He was often seen playing hymns on stage for his good friend Billy Graham during the famed Billy Graham Crusades. In the book titled The Man Comes Around: The Spiritual Journey of Johnny Cash the author recounts an interview a writer was conducting with Cash later in his life:
A writer once tried to paint [Johnny] Cash into a corner, baiting him to acknowledge a single denominational persuasion at the center of his heart. Finally, Cash laid down the law: “I—as a believer that Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew, the Christ of the Greeks, was the Anointed One of God (born of the seed of David, upon faith as Abraham has faith, and it was accounted to him for righteousness)—am grafted onto the true vine, and am one of the heirs of God’s covenant with Israel.”
“What?” the writer replied.
“I’m a Christian,” Cash shot back. “Don’t put me in another box.”
Often times as Christians we get placed in “boxes” by the world. In an effort to discredit, scrutinize, or even make us question our faith the world compares us to the most vocal and extreme versions of “Christianity” they can conjure up, like the hateful Westboro Baptist Church. Instead of taking an honest look at our beliefs and convictions we get painted by the world as an enemy of “tolerance”.
Most Christians can relate to being put in the world’s Christianity “box”. It happens all the time. But what happens when we as Christians put fellow believers in our own version of the Christianity “box”? Are we not also guilty of looking at our own brothers and sisters in Christ and trying to place them in our own idea of what Christianity should look like? In Romans 14:1-12 Paul the Apostle writes about not judging other believers based on your own opinions of what their Christianity should look like. In verses 1-3 he writes:
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.
In this example Paul describes the conflict arisen from weaker Christians, or in this case those who had not yet come to a full knowledge of how to live as a Christian, and stronger Christians, who allowed themselves certain liberties. Both groups were passing judgement or placing each other in their own Christianity “box” based on what they were or weren’t eating. Now for most Christians today the thought of “clean” or “unclean” food isn’t an issue but this example can be translated into many areas of modern Christianity when it comes to things not directly condemned or addressed in the scripture. Issues like the type of clothes you should wear on Sunday morning, the types of music used in a worship service, or whether or not Christians should abstain from alcohol are all common discussions among believers. However, you must be careful that whatever your actions are that they do not become a stumbling block or hindrance to another.
In closing, let us be careful not to put any fellow believer in our own Christianity “box” for as Paul states in Romans 14:4
Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.