OceanSide church of Christ
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Victor M. Eskew
What in the world is a dichotomy? Has Victor lost his mind using such a word at OceanSide? Maybe not. Webster defines the word “dichotomy” as follows: “the process of dividing into two esp. mutually exclusive or contradictory groups.” It is easy for a Christian to live in such a way as to create an apparent dichotomy. Some illustrations will help us to understand this term and how it better applies to those seeking to live a Christian life.
Spiritual, but Not Interested
God’s children are called to be spiritual in nature. A spiritual person is one who is deeply interested in spiritual things. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:1-2). In Romans 8:5, Paul explains our spiritual quest in these words: “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit do mind the things of the Spirit.”
Sometimes, God’s children live a dichotomy in this area of Christianity. They believe themselves to be spiritual, but they do not possess a deep interest in spiritual things. Worldly pursuits take more of their time than spiritual pursuits. If sacrifices must be made, they sacrifice their spiritual life. If decisions must be made about their time, the world will get more of their time than the Lord. A dichotomy exists between what they claim spiritually and what they actually practice.
Pure, but Living in Sin
When we put on Christ in baptism (Gal. 3:27), we are cleansed from our sins (Acts 22:16; Eph. 1:7). No longer are we to live lives characterized by sin. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that they body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin” (Rom. 6:6-7). This type of life does not involve sinless perfection (I John 1:8-10). It does mean that one does not live in sin. He does not habitually, continually persist in a life of sin.
Again, some Christians live in a dichotomy in this realm of life. Somehow they seem to divorce their everyday lives from their Christian life. Everyday life can be filled with cursing, gambling, dancing, fornication, adultery, and other acts of ungodliness. Yet, they believe that on Sunday morning they are holy in God’s sight. A dichotomy exists between what God actually demands in the realm of holiness and what the Christian practices.
Disciples, but Not Learners
The Lord told His apostles to go into all the world and make disciples of those in all nations (Matt. 28:19-20). A disciple is one who sits at the feet of another. He is a student, a pupil, a learner. As disciples of Christ, we are supposed to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn His words. Mary, the sister of Martha, was a disciple. “And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his words” (Luke 10:39). Jesus commended her actions. “But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42). God’s children desire to know more of Jesus. They hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matt. 5:8). They are like sponges that soak up the water of life that flows from the fountainhead of truth.
Once more, some of God’s children possess a dichotomy of life here. The acquisition of knowledge does not interest them. O yes, they sit in Bible classes and come to worship services, but they pay little attention to the details of the discussion. They do not complete their lessons. They do not take notes. They do not give any feedback from their personal study. During the sermon they are visit in the nursery, talk in the foyer, and think about their afternoon agenda. Gospel meetings, special classes, and lectureships will not find them present. They know more about sports statistics than about the gospel plan of salvation. They will often wish they had more Bible knowledge when in a religious discussion, but it is only a fleeting thought. A dichotomy exists between what God expects of disciples and their ignorance of the Word.
Lovers of God, but Haters of Brethren
Loving God is an essential part of the Christian life. Jesus said that we are to love God with our whole being. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all they soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:37). This is an easy command because God has already shown His love for us. Thus, “we love him because he first loved us” (I John 4:19). We demonstrate that love every time we are obedient to the commands of God (John 14:15; I John 5:3).
A dichotomy develops, however, when we say we love God, but demonstrate hatred for our brethren. This writer has seen many lives of duplicity in this area. Brethren gossip about each other. They argue and fight. They spread lies and tales. They will not speak to one another. They will not work side-by-side. They will even seek to do their brethren harm, if possible. Yet, they say they love God. John says this is an impossibility. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (I John 4:20).
In our introduction, we noted that apparent dichotomies exist in our Christian lives. In reality, spiritual dichotomies do not exist. We are either spiritual, or, we are not spiritual. We are either pure, or, we are not pure. We are either disciples, or, we are not disciples. We either love God and the brethren, or, we love neither. In God’s sight, there is no such thing as a fence-straddler. Jesus said: “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (John 12:30).