The standard reply, of course, is that the penitence of Lent is not about scoring brownie points, but about meditating on the passion of Christ, and joining in his suffering. The ashes are applied in the shape of a cross to remind us of the cross, and the death we must each die to our sins and our bodily passions.Read the full post here.
Two problems present themselves with this view. First, it underestimates our sin. Remember, Jesus listed pride and deceit as two of the things that bubble up from within our hearts. As sinners, we can’t help taking pride in the things we do to give our salvation a little push, so engaging in such self-prescribed spiritual disciplines just gives us more sin — the sin of pride — to repent of.
Second, and more fundamentally, is the uniqueness and purpose of Christ's sufferings. Jesus didn't die to purify his own soul, but ours. He fasted for forty days in the wilderness on our behalf, so we wouldn't have to; not as a model, but as a substitute. His passion was not a discipline that made his heart pure in its love for his Father, it was the price to be paid for our sins, and he paid it in full.
Christians are called to suffer as Christ suffered, that is, with the same purpose. We are called to suffer not for ourselves, but for others. When we engage in fasting in his image, but for the purpose of purifying ourselves, we invert that image. Such penitence is ultimately focused on self, not on the other.
Many on the left and right can agree that nobody should be unnecessarily forced to violate their conscience. But in order to violate a Christian's conscience, the government would have to force them to affirm something in which they don't believe. This is why the first line of analysis here has to be whether society really believes that baking a wedding cake or arranging flowers or taking pictures (or providing any other service) is an affirmation. This case simply has not been made, nor can it be, because it defies logic. If you lined up 100 married couples and asked them if their florist "affirmed" their wedding, they would be baffled by the question.The authors are implying two things in their analysis. First, by saying "nobody should be unnecessarily forced to violate their conscience," they are suggesting there are times when it becomes necessary to force people to violate their conscience. Current laws and court cases do just that.
Strangely, conservative Christians seem to have little interest in this level of analysis and jump right to complaints about their legal and constitutional rights. It's not that these rights don't matter. Rather, they should be a secondary issue for Christians. Before considering legal rights, Christians wrestling with this issue must first resolve the primary issue of whether the Bible calls Christians to deny services to people who are engaging in behavior they believe violates the teachings of Christianity regarding marriage. The answer is, it does not.Well, a lot of Christians would argue that it does. Romans 1 comes to mind. After all, what is a gay "wedding" if not a celebration and endorsement of sin?
Rather than protecting the conscience rights of Christians, this [legislation] looks a lot more like randomly applying religious belief in a way that discriminates against and marginalizes one group of people, while turning a blind eye to another group. It's hard to believe that Jesus was ever for that.No, what's hard to believe is that two Christians would ignore 1 Corinthians 8 and chastise their brothers and sisters in Christ. Their problem isn't with government forcing Christians to go against their principles; the problem is that Christians aren't going along with a clear conscience.