I’ve been thinking a lot about our culture in the light of the horrors that are occurring on the other side of the world in Iraq and Syria…and elsewhere.
I read that Islamic fundamentalists hate Westerners because we are so immoral. I assume that they are talking about sexual immorality. It is true that as Westerners have abandoned Christian morality and embraced a kind of secularism that encourages us to throw off any kind of “oppressive” restraint, we appear to them to be infidels.
Sadly, in our culture’s eagerness to immerse ourselves in free expression of the individual’s will, tolerance (an erroneous kind), and materialism, we have rid ourselves of a holy God who would rein in our baser impulses.
This is hedonism.
On the other side….and on the other side of the world, we see Islamic extremists whom I would term, legalists.
These are people who believe that we must not allow any kind of freedom. In their world women are weak and inferior and must be ruled with cruelty and oppression. Harsh laws keep people from saying or doing anything that might be construed as rebellion against their teachings. Infidels must be persecuted or slain. No other set of beliefs will be tolerated.
I’ve never seen anyone in this system who is joy-filled and peace-filled. Not one. How could they be?
Legalism says, in effect, do this, do that perfectly and you will be rewarded. Do you know anyone who’s perfect?
I don’t. And I never will. Therefore, there is no ultimate reward in legalism. Only zealotry, striving, and frustration.
Hedonists see no reward beyond the here and now. Legalists expect an ultimate reward for their obedience and self-denial.
Both philosophies disappoint now, and will disappoint ultimately.
Hedonists and legalists appear to be polar opposites. But, in reality, they are quite the same.
Both hedonists and legalists are focused on themselves and their own reward. They are both self-centered.
We in the West are horrified by the actions and teachings of the Islamic extremists. We’ve seen executions, rapes, mutilations, torture, crucifixions.
The Extremists see us as objects of horror, too. In their minds, we allow our women to expose themselves in public, men and women co-habit, we tolerate all sorts of societal evils.
Both hedonists and legalists have denied Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Neither have been freed from the bondage of sin. Both are equally lost. Neither philosophy understands and acknowledges GRACE.
Christ is the answer to hedonism. Christ is the answer to legalists. To both, He would say, “Yes, your sin has separated you from God…the true God. But I (Christ) have sacrificed Myself on the cross to pay for your sin.”
There is no room for smugness for anyone. For no amount of “freedom” can free a person from their sin.
No amount of striving and zealotry can merit any kind of reward, in this world or the next.
True joy, true peace comes only when we receive the gift of God’s forgiveness, found only in Jesus Christ.
“To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32 NIV Bible)