Friday, 31 July 2015

Pursuing holiness

I was not entirely happy with my last post. It’s not that I didn’t mean exactly what I said in it or express my ideas satisfactorily. It is just that it felt incomplete in some way, so consider this to be part 2 or a follow up on that one. It may help to go and read that post first (you can do that by clicking here) but to summarize here, the bottom line was that I expressed the feeling that the new gay marriage laws in America don’t really have much to do with the church and we have possibly being using it as a scapegoat to divert attention away from ourselves and the sins that are far more abundant in our own lives. So let me pick up from there and share what was not said in ‘part 1’.

The kingdoms of the world and the Kingdom of God are meant to be polar opposites. So I find it peculiar that we as the church get so caught up in the affairs of the world while our own standards and fruits appear to be no better or worse than theirs. I do not fear a world that is worldly; it is to be expected. I do however fear for a church that looks and preaches no differently than the culture around it does. One of the themes that seems to be prevailing in the 21st century church is that we are all messed up and broken and that is okay. I agree with the first part of that statement but not with the second. A few weeks ago I read an article on the BBC news website where a pastor said that every church should have a drag queen in the congregation and those that do not should go and get one. It is one thing to listen to and love the outcasts in society, to grant everyone equal right and recognize that we ourselves are all broken in our own ways as well but it’s something else when we as the church start celebrating and glorying in our brokenness.

One of the other bloggers who participated in the gay marriage synchroblog last week shared an analogy in their post of the church being a hospital for sick people. I agree (and it was a great post), but let’s also remember that people don’t go to hospital to celebrate their diseases but to overcome them. Yes, we all miss the mark; we are all on a journey and in an ongoing process of being transformed into the likeness of Christ. And it is important that we are gracious to one another and allow God to do His work in people rather than guilting them onto the religious treadmill of self works and self righteousness. But let’s also be clear that there is no room in the body of Christ for willful, deliberate leaven to do its thing. To trade holiness for licentiousness is to throw the atoning work of the cross back in Jesus’ face.

Despite the overwhelming testimony of the New Testament authors, it has somehow become taboo and judgmental to correct and admonish one another. Sure, this is sometimes done not out of love but from ones own pedestal. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. “Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray” (Proverbs 10:17). “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” (Proverbs 19:20). Scripture repeatedly tells that, in a spirit of love, humility and gentleness, we are to admonish (Acts 20:31, Romans 15:14, Colossians 1:28, 3:16), correct (Romans 15:7, Galatians 6:1), warn (2 Thessalonians 3:15), rebuke (Luke 17:3-4, 2 Timothy 4:2) and confront one another (Galatians 2:11) when it is needed.

It is not pleasant but love, real love, is not indifferent or neglectful to what causes harm to individuals and the church community as a whole. In the first three chapters of Revelations Jesus has some strong words for the churches in Asia but He ends off with the assuring words, “those I love, I rebuke and chasten”. In extreme cases where people continue in their sin and rebellion, we are even called to cut people off (Matthew 18:15-17, Titus 3:10-11, 1 Corinthians 5:1-11). Going back to the hospital analogy, sometimes in a body, amputation becomes necessary (although it is always a last resort). Even then, it is done out of love for the body as well as the individual in the hopes that they might repent and be restored.

Let us not lower the bar by saying that, “we all have our dirty spots”. Rather, let us take hold of Christ’s hand as He pulls us out of the mud we have being playing in and while we are getting dragged out, make sure one or two people grab onto your limbs as well that they too might be lifted out with you.

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