No, I am not talking about color as in race, although that may play a factor in some cases. I am talking about the colors red and green. Let me explain. One of my theology profs opened up a lecture with this statement, loosely quoted;
Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone came with an LED device on their forehead with two probes – one red and one green. Green indicates they are Christian and red indicates they are not. That way there would be no guessing as to whether you were dealing with a regenerated person or not. Unfortunately, we don’t get those kinds of clues, which does leave some doubt in some cases.
In most cases, I think we know whether one is a Christian or not. But in some cases, there is doubt on varying levels. It occurs to me that we can approach this determination through the lens of glass half-full and glass half-empty perspectives. The glass half-full Christian will want to see green. They will tend to accept the person at face value or otherwise base-line levels of articulation of the faith. The glass half-full will see the examinee as innocent until proven guilty. Conversely, the glass-half empty will tend to see red. There is a high level of scrutiny that is required in order to reach a satisfactory determination of one’s Christian status. The examinee is guilty until proven innocent.
Now please understand that I am not suggesting that we “go green” without any examination or discernment. We don’t want to go to extremes and give someone a pass just because they go to church or use Christian verbiage. We do not want to be naive but we do want to be discerning.
It is the glass-half empty perspective that I want to focus on – the one who tends to see red. And I have some concerns. The glass half-empty automatically suspects and distrusts one’s Christianity. Why is this so? Perhaps it is because of an abundance of knowledge and learning that raises the bar for the red. This probably comes from years of in-depth study. The Christian who sees red may want for others to have a level of articulation that accommodates their own. It might have to do with denominational distinctions that narrowly constrict the definition of salvation in ways that other denominations or groups don’t. Or it could be other reasons why strenuous scrutiny is placed on the examinee. I cannot speak to motives only observations.
No other observation provides such clarity in this red/green lens as when such examination evolves around visible or public figures. We have seen this in the case of the president’s confession of faith that has drawn polarized conclusions. It was not that long ago that remarks have been made publicly negating validity of his faith. Apologies were made but the polarization continues. A friend and professional colleague had some interesting things to say here about the raised standard of Christianity for the president. We saw this recently with the TD Jakes/Elephant Room situation. Is he or isn’t he? Some saw green and some saw red.
Whether its the president or TD Jakes or Roman Catholics or whatever person we question, the bottom line is some will just see red. No explanation or articulation seems to suffice. There is a reluctance to admit that person into Christianity. And this points to what I think is a greater concern. I wonder if Christians who see red actually wants that person or persons to be Christian. Because it does appear that such negation and protests can be construed as putting up road blocks so the one confessing Christianity will never get a pass into the elect club. Why is this so? Such motives are worthy of examination. We should not forget the free gift offered to us in our own ignorance.
Folks, I suggest that we should want to see green. We should want that confession of faith to be genuine and confessor a bona fide member of the body of Christ. I see in scripture that God appears to want this too. He sent His Son for his creation He loved so much to save and not condemn (John 3:16-17). He wishes that none would perish but all would come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). We see simple confessions of faith, such as the Philippian jailer who was told “believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts16:31). Again, discernment is needed. Wishing someone to be Christian will not make them one. Not all who profess Christianity actually are Christians. Not all will come to saving faith in Christ. But at the same time, let’s not impune the ones who genuinely might be Christian in the quest to validate our own unreasonable standards, if such is the case.
With 2,000 years of church history, splintering, doctrinal articulation and deviations, we are not all going to agree on many things. But we should agree on what makes one a Christian – belief in Jesus such that one is admitted into the kingdom of God by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. That means that sometimes the person may not articulate faith in a manner that we would like, or according to a culture or denomination we don’t understand or that they even know all the verbiage. It means that maybe we should put down the rocks and pick up books on church history to understand tradition and denominational distinctions. It means that we are not always going to know which light is lit on the LED indicator. But perhaps it would be better to be people of hope instead of condemnation. Maybe we should be people of grace who want that person to have crossed over the bridge rather than looking for ways to burn it so he or she can’t get to the other side.
So what color do you tend to see, red or green?