Live and let live is that the way to live?
A lot of people would agree with that in our country and in our community. You live one way and I’ll live my way and we’ll just let each other do what they want and live how they feel is right. You say tomato I say tomato kind of feeling. It certainly is the philosophy that everyone says everyone else should take, especially if you get into a discussion about politics or religion someone will just throw up their hands and say, live and let live.
There are some good benefits to it, in any culture, community, family there has to be a certain amount of respect for the other people around you, how they want to do things and how they want to live. If you don’t you end up trying to micro-manage or become a cult leader, neither is really a good choice!
But this philosophy of living has some very real weaknesses as well, it is a philosophy of living among other philosophies, it isn’t a given that this is how we should live. One of the major draw backs to this philosophy is that we don’t live in little bubbles, separated from everyone else and insulated from other opinions and behaviors. Our thoughts which lead to our actions have real and visceral consequences that effect the people around us. That is probably the biggest problem with live and let live is that it kind assumes that differences in how people live doesn’t effect anyone else, but of course they do because we don’t live in bubbles. Dealing with the conflict that will always come from this will eventually lead people to the other philosophy that grew from this one.
Live and let die. This is the cynical philosophy that is almost guaranteed to happen after live and let live looses it’s luster, especially after dealing with all of the conflict that comes from it, people start to isolate themselves, whether secluded themselves away from other people or clustering into like-minded groups where it is a lot easier to live and let live because everyone agrees with you, but everyone else who doesn’t agree or live the way you are, well they can all just go to.. They made their beds, let them lie in it.
Christians also bounce between these two philosophies of living as well, on the one hand trying to be so tolerant and “loving” of others and their beliefs that it seems like the Christian doesn’t actually believe or stand for anything. But on the other hand when they get fed up with this, they tend to cluster into their own little communities, with their own bookstores, coffeehouses, movies, tv shows, radio programs, events and programs safely secure knowing they are on the right side of the line and if the rest of the world doesn’t want to join them in their particular community then they can all just go to… as well.
Christians get stuck in these different philosophies, then they feel guilty for the people they love that are living in hurtful ways apart from the Lord and they feel like it is their fault they are not converted, “I was their only chance to hear the Word,” so they feel they have to push really hard to get others make a decision for Jesus and of course that someone get’s mad at them and yells, “live and let live!” Doesn’t seem like anyone can win in this mess does it?
The problem with all of these philosophies combined then is that if what someone is doing is hurtful to themselves and others, if you try to live and let live or if you try to live and let die,or try force them to do something else the results for the person that is hurting themselves ends up being the same and you have shrugged it off as an impossible cause. Like seeing someone drowning, you can live and let live and walk away, live and let die and watch them drown or push really hard and beat them in the head with the life preserver!
What is the Christian who wants to live faithfully in all of this do?
It doesn’t seem like any of these philosophies, while they all have some reality attach to them, are really a good way to go. If we try to stay within our own heads or with cultural philosophies on life, we’ll just keep going around in circles.
First, maybe as Christians we need to define exactly what we are trying to accomplish. If we’re trying to get everyone to behave how we want them to and to fit into God’s standards of living it’s not going to happen. We live in a broken, sinful world. We are broken, sinful people. Not one of us is righteous, all of us break’s God’s commands and it is not morality that reconnects us to God. For the Christian, the desire for righteous living is a response to what God has done for us and only finds it’s consistency in that relationship with God. Without that common saving relationship with God it can be like trying to get people to realize there is a difference between apples and hand grenades and they still don’t get it! We can appeal to what the constitution appeals to, the common dignity of life because it is a Creation of God but we all know how well politics works.
So, if the job of the Christian is not to what some may call it, be morality police, then the question falls more into salvation, having a restored relationship with God through Jesus. There are a lot of evangelism programs out there, door to door knocking, getting people to say the believer’s prayer, using social ministry to bring people to Jesus and the like. But notice in all of that (which can sometimes feel like we are beating the person in the head with the life preserver) where is the focus and who is doing all of the work? It’s on me doing the work. But who saves a life, a soul, a spirit? Who can bring us into a right relationship with God? Who can change hearts? We can’t. Only God does. The better question to start with is what is God doing in all of this and how can we be a part of that?
In the Lord’s Prayer we pray a confession of faith, Your Kingdom Come. When we say that, we are confessing something about God’s kingdom. Are we saying that God’s kingdom needs my help to exist or to bring it’s saying Grace to this world? Did God need my help t bring Jesus into this world? Nope and no way. Even if I wanted too there was nothing I could have done to make that happen. Salvation is God’s Work and God’s Plan and God’s Salvation for a world that is already lost and broken in sin, it cannot come from me, I am part of that lost and broken world as well.
God’s Kingdom of Grace for this world in Jesus Christ already comes without my helping, but when we pray this prayer we are asking that God’s Kingdom might come to me and in and through me as well.
So what do we do, how do we live? What has God asked us to do to share in His Work of Salvation for the World?
He calls us who have received faith already in our savior Jesus t respond in love, praise and thanksgiving for all He has done for us. Not to neglect the blessing given in our own lives but live within a life of worship, prayer, growth and maturity all filled with God’s love. To by the Grace of God make God first in all we say and do and let His Word be a Light to our path and guide our choices.
Love all of the people in our lives and world, love as we have been loved, forgive as we have been forgiven, help as we have been helped, comfort as we have been comforted, teach as we have been taught and share freely what we have been given.
In any of that do you hear God asking us to get someone to pray “the Believer’s pray?” No, it’s not even in the Bible. Instead we hear God’s Word calling us to life that recognized first and foremost God as the source of all hope and salvation and God through Jesus being the one to bring that salvation to our world. Then us to go where he is leading us. To His Word and HIs Sacraments, to where His promises are given and faith is created and strengthened.
Living not as live and let live, or live and let die, or beating people in the head with the Gospel, but knowing it is God’s work to do the saving not ours, so living a life that is filled with those blessings of love, hope and salvation that only God can give and freely sharing those blessings with others.