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without love

October 9, 2008

(Or, “I want to be Martin Luther when I grow up”)

I met another Christian blogger recently. He’s rather prolific. I really enjoy his blog, and another media project he directs. He’s acutely aware of some of the shortcomings of the western Church, and writing from a very passionate position about the chasm between Biblical Christianity and what goes on in many local churches and Christian circles in our society.

Through his acquaintance I’ve also been introduced to a number of other blogs and voices that, initially, seem to be along the same pulse. On one occasion I was invited to contribute to a blog that disagrees with (to put it mildly) western Christianity. I was flattered – honored, even – and excited about the opportunity, but yesterday had to decline it.

I believe the guy I met has a genuine heart, but there’s a fine line between concern and condemnation. Between righteousness, and self-righteousness. Some of the voices and networks that I’ve met and seen through him seem to err on the side of finger-pointing, and it’s really stirred up something inside of me.

I agree that church as we know it in the U.S. is faltering. I agree that many churches are more concerned with what goes on inside their walls than with what goes on in their communities. I agree that many local ministries are not reaching out to their neighbors. I agree that many Christian circles are closed-off and condemning. I agree that Christianity in our country needs to be infused with a fresh dose of humility, servant-hood, grace, and sacrificial love.

I do not believe that distancing ourselves – as believers – from the body of Christ, is the way to do it.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes to believers, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” Your message can be straight from heaven, but if you can’t speak it in love it’s nothing. You can be right where others are dead wrong, but if you can’t express yourself in love it doesn’t matter.

The Holy Spirit has really used the past week of blog-hopping and emailing to point at me. Where am I being cynical? Unforgiving? Prideful? The Church in the west has problems, but the Church in the west is still the body and bride of Jesus Christ. Like it or not, that includes me, so what am I doing about it?

The picture that I keep getting is Jesus’ last meal. The night before His closest friends – the very first Church – would betray and abandon Him amidst His greatest hour of need, He washed their feet. He served the Church out of love, and because He knew what they were capable of. He knew that He had begun something that, no matter how bad it looks, all the forces of hell would never prevail against. Can’t I do the same?

Humility, servant-hood, grace, and sacrificial love start with me.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 11101100 permalink
    October 9, 2008 6:39 pm

    So I have a question then…
    Isaiah says “Woe to those who call good ‘evil’ and evil ‘good’.” If we’re called to discern between what is right and wrong and what is righteous and unrighteous, where do we draw the line?

    Do we need an understanding of what judgment is and what discernment is?

    Is judgment placing a sentence upon someone, and discernment knowing what is right and wrong without doling out sentence?

    Along with that, what if we don’t agree with what we see and how it operates, but we still keep in community with brothers and sisters, but stay away from the institutionalism/westernization of it?

    I know there has been much violence done to Hebrews 10:24,25 with respect to people “going to church”, but the reality of the scriptures there are talking about gathering with our brothers and sisters.

    So what is one to do? I love all of my brothers and sisters, and the last thing I want to do is distance myself from them in an elitist mentality that the institutional/western church is the Great Whore and all who are in her are damned, deceived, against the “true church”, but just a cursory examination of those who have pulled out of the institutional church shows that is a pretty common mindset, and it really saddens me.

    My ultimate desire is for true fellowship and community, and while there is a biblical precedent for staying within and working with what we have (Western Christianity), there is also the biblical precedent of leaving and hanging out in a cave with our brothers and sisters, not bowing our knees to Baal.

    I suppose the difference is that the one who stays within the body can restore true worship (which is what Elijah did) for the benefit of those not in the caves.

    So this may or may not be the proper forum for this, but I feel it is relevant.

    I know personally that pulling out a bit from institutionalism has drawn friendly fire that isn’t so friendly, but it really hurts. So I can understand where the mindset of bitterness and calloused Christians who are doing the house church deal come from with direction to the institutional/western body. But I think we need to realize that we’re all ultimately going for the same thing, which is the reality of Christ and the freedom that comes with being a son of God and leading others to that.

    It breaks my heart to think that the reality of Romans 2 is still alive and kicking in so many of us. We’re all judging one another for what we have done, are doing, and ultimately will do. So now by our own judgment we’re guilty as well.

    I guess to give light to what I’m feeling more than anything else is that instead of saying that someone is doing evil and that someone is doing good, we should leave that judgment for God and work for what we’re passionate about. Maybe maturity dictates the number of fingers we point and how we steward our passions.

    Love is a complicated thing in its simplicity.

    Any insight? Is my thinking flawed?

  2. Lex permalink
    October 10, 2008 2:41 pm

    I think we can discern between good and evil, and correct our brothers and sisters (and the Church in general) in love. That’s all I was saying.

    I don’t know if any of these people are in churches, in house churches, or completely alienating themselves from the body of Christ. And I’m not speaking to that.

    I do know that they’ve been given eyes to see where the Church in our society is falling short, but I believe they’re mishandling that gift. Many of them are comfortable behind a keyboard, yelling at the body of Christ for her flaws but not offering any suggestion. No encouragement, no edification, no comfort.

    At the same time I don’t want to fall into the same trap of trusting my intellect and thinking that I’m absolutely right, and they are absolutely wrong. Because at the core of it, that’s their issue. If I step out in some way (to point out an issue, or pull back from institutionalism – as you put it), I need to still be open to the possibility that I’m wrong.

    Like Peter, who one moment had a revelation from the Father that Jesus is the Christ, and the very next moment rebuked Him for saying He would suffer and die. One revelation doesn’t not make me right all the time, and it doesn’t not put me above the authority that God establishes in His Church.

    The problem is it’s not being done in love. Discern and correct, but it has to be done in love.

  3. 11101100 permalink
    October 13, 2008 7:41 pm

    Wow… I totally read something into your post that wasn’t there. I apologize for that.

    Thanks for your insight anyway. Even though I was talking about something unaddressed and essentially not related, the wisdom still relates. And I appreciate that.

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