"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Goes Without Saying
            Or it should.
            What prompted Joe Stowell to write a devotional for Our Daily Bread titled "Getting Along," with the church as the target audience? One of the New Testament's major themes is godly love, and how it is the natural outgrowth of new life in Christ. Yes, it should go without saying.
            Considering the number of Scripture passages that affirm this principle, we must accept its truth, and its binding application to God's church. So we come back to the same question: Why do Joe Stowell, countless other passionate preachers, and God's New Testament need to harp on a quality that should be as natural to believers as breathing?
            Two rather ugly possible answers jump out at us: First, those church members who seem unable to love the brethren are, in fact, false brethren. Second, the church has become as lukewarm as the church at Laodecia, and deserves the same fate; Jesus will spew(vomit, regurgitate) them out of His mouth. Bad enough if only one of those possibilities were true, but perhaps both are.
            True, despite high profile preachers harping on this theme, the problem continues to spread. More and more, we the church give non-believing observers more reason to scoff at "Christian" church-goers. Despite planning ever more programs, curricula and seminars aimed at improving their congregations' "love one another" scores, pastors seem unable to reach the self-righteous "brethren" who cause discord. While we sit under passionate messages urging Christ's selfless love—consistently applying them to others—countless holy-sitters continue looking down our sanctified noses at those unworthy others who insist on marching in the Way out of step. Somehow, different is always wrong.
            When my son-in-law read this post he wisely suggested two other likely reasons for the church not getting along, and I agree with him. Those are ignorance and lack of vision.
            Those two issues are related. Ignorance comes from lack of positive role-modeling. We can study parenting methods, anger management, coping skills and positive assertiveness, but if those who act(purposely or inadvertently) as role models lead dysfunctional lives, so will their kids.
            But vision(or lack thereof) is also taught by example, from the top down. If the leadership has no sense of urgency in their vision, neither will the rank-and-file. Keeping the saints busy with God's work does eliminate most dissatisfaction--for those who are willing to buckle down.
            But then there are the self-appointed policemen and critics whose highest calling is to keep the rest of the church in line. We want to keep them around, though, as they are often the biggest tithers. We're talking about those who were movers and shakers during most of their lives, and now that they are comfortably retired they have nothing better to do than harangue the church leadership. Yes, that's a stereotype, but a very real one.
            In our little body here in Northwest Montana, no one is affluent, and few are even snugly well off. That tends to keep folks humble. Yet, even in our subsistence-level congregation we find formality comfortable, and change difficult. Yes, that "we" includes me. Even when the stakes aren't especially high, we fallible humans tenaciously guard conformity, or conformity to non-conformity. Just as our first parents envied the power structure and wanted to do things their own way(which was actually the serpent's way), we church-goers also tend toward willfulness. Praise God for His marvelous grace, in giving us the One Way into a right relationship with Him and the godliness His Holy Spirit produces.
            Will I ever be able to proclaim my testimony and faith without facing the non-believer's battlement erected upon Christendom's nasty reputation? Goes without saying; I hope so.

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