Saturday night over chamomile tea and popcorn a conversation morphed from world travel and web design to the incongruities and fallacies that plague the church today (popcorn can have that effect on people). Since we all grew up in one flavor of fundamentalism or another we could easily identify the issues: getting numbers rather than people, equating suits and ties and potluck pies with godliness, believing what we believe because pastor said so, what is separation, and others. But how do those problems go away?
“When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son…it is I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in my arms; But they did not know I healed them. I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love, And I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws; And I bent down and fed them.”
Hosea 11:1, 3-4 NASB
I can’t pretend to have the answer to the whole mess in my back pocket, but I can at least tell you what I’ve learned and hope that it somehow adds to what you already know and perhaps it can help.
I attended a Christian school for my four years of high school. Those years were cradled in a safe environment that taught its inhabitants the Word and matured them by an emphasis on service and selflessness. Even so I had failed to see Christianity as it should be seen: as a singular focus on the gospel and relationship with God. Instead I assumed that it was a code of standards and conduct. And somehow I was blind to all the truly important things.
But God did not leave me in my ignorance. Though he speaks these words in Hosea to Israel, as my Heavenly Father I believe He does the same for me. He taught me about trust and faith in Him. He taught me to walk (he leads me out of my immaturity). He taught me to feed on the Word. He’s shown me that he is faithful; He won’t give up on me. And He’s still teaching me all these things.
Out of these truths I’ve discovered other things. It is God and not other men that change me. The state of an individual is largely up to how far he will allow God to lead him, not what he wears to church or how tightly he holds his traditions. I’ve realized that we don’t need to clean someone up before or after he is saved, God does that. When we act in love we become a people unafraid to humbly approach someone when they’re in the wrong. When we act in love we become a people obsessed with scheming and plotting ways of doing good to each other simply because we want to (Matthew 5:44-45).
I believe, then, that the solution is found in what the individual is willing to do with what he knows of the word and the nature of God. If we don’t trust God to work in other’s lives as He has in our own then it is only natural that we would want throw rules and regulations at people (I’m not saying that rules are wrong, in fact they’re necessary, but there’s a difference between order and pharisaical control). It is up to you, and me as individuals, to dare to take God’s word for it. And if you have learned things that I haven’t then I would honestly love to sit down with a bowl of popcorn and talk about it.Posted by timf at August 17, 2004 03:39 PM