Saturday, February 17, 2007

"Spirit" -> The New Pharisees

"In Essentials, Unity; in Non-essentials, Liberty; in All Things, Charity," stated Peter Meiderlin under his Latin Pen name Rupertus Meldenius, during the early 1600s.

Some have said that Augustine said it before Meiderlin, but Augustine's version was "In truth, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity." I consider this a much weaker version.

Although Meiderlin did not get much read by many people, we are grateful that Richard Baxter did pick up his saying and put it into his book, "The Reformed Pastor." The book can be downloaded at the excellent site here. We should all understand how the Lord works: Meiderlin never saw the fruit of his own concerns. However, the Lord was able to use his words in a marvelous fashion. You may never know how the Lord will use your work.

I too have the tendency to have too much judgment in my writing on some subjects. My nephew pointed out my "cottage cheese" comment in my previous post. Rather than redo the post, I will state that if I could rewrite my post again, I probably would have not used such strong words. I was trying to be funny and wake people up, but a harsh word can be worse than a slap, and perhaps I wen over the line. I have no wish to cause others to stumble.

However, it is not just me. I notice that we are dividing and saying harsh words to each other over issues that are not central to to the job that we are supposed to be doing: Loving the Lord Jesus Christ with our whole heart and our neighbor as our self. Our great commission is to proclaim the good news that we can be reconciled to God and lead others to that reconciliation.

Am I saying that Christians can't disagree or search the scriptures? Of course not, this would be sheer silliness and an abrogation of the dictate to be as wise as serpents but as innocent as doves. However, I am concerned that we are no longer innocent in our speech in some of the discussion that go on inside the Churches that I visit and live.

In the Gospel of John, our Lord said:

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

This is the easiest of all commandments to break in our own lives and in the lives of our churches.

See if we cannot show love to our brothers and sisters, the world will look at us and say, "Those Christians are no different than us. They fight and bicker. They say that they are transformed, but they are too busy condemning each other that they don't have anything."

If we cannot show love to each other, then we cannot show that we are the Lord's disciplines. We are missing a brilliant tool in the great commission, as Francis A. Schaeffer pointed out, since our mutual love allows the non-Christian to believe.

The book Of 1 John 2:9 ff point this out very clearly.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him[c] to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.

What I find ironic about the attitude that we show each other, in conversations that I have even heard in my own family, is that people justify bad behavior by pointing to the example of Jesus or Paul.

Their logic is as follows:

Look Jesus and Paul, got mad a lot of times. They had righteous indignation. They fought the wrong ideas, therefore, I'm just following the lead of Jesus or Paul.

The problem with this idea is that it is horrible exegesis.

The context of Paul's wrath was always about placing a stumbling block in the path of people coming to Christ. About the maddest Paul ever got is when he said that certain trouble makers should cut off their their own penis and testicles. Paul was clearly a bit miffed.

But why? Paul was mad because there was a group of CHRISTIAN people that went around stopping the non-believers from accepting Christ by putting more into salvation than what was necessary. I do get mad, but for me it is at those Christians that insist that you can't be a Christian without believing in a young earth. To me, they are keeping others from accepting our faith because of a narrow reading of scripture. If somebody comes to you asking if all Christians believe in a young earth, the last thing you should do is try to convince them that all 21st century scientists are wrong. The right answer is "this is not an essential of the faith." Those that insist a young earth is an essential of the faith, I must only refer them to the dictate of my good brother Paul and his words to those that place stumbling blocks in the path.

Once you start reading the entire Bible, you will understand that Paul's source of anger (a narrow reading of scripture) was exactly what was at the root of our Lord's anger.

The context of our Lord's wrath in the Gospel's was almost always against the Bible scholars of his day. While he would eat with the tax collector, the prostitute, the morally wrong, and the social misfit, the one person that he absolutely would NOT put up with was those that used the scripture to justify their own position to condemn others. The other time that is notable in the wrath of Jesus is when people profited by working in the church. (Televangelist with private jet fleets need to take warning.)

Remember, having a grasp of the scripture and arguing it's points to the n'th degree only makes us the new Pharisees.


tmm said...

So, my very poor pastor and his wife wouldn't let me leave the church without financially compensating me for my trip to the onsen. It was a gift, because they said they are sad I'm only going to be here for a year, and want me to do things without hesitation with the bible study group.

And this was, uh, after I accidentally busted a cooking utensil of theirs, last week. Just thought I'd share that. Pastor Busby is generous this way too. Some pastors never seem to accumulate wealth because they are too busy giving it away.

Theologic said...

It's the little things like this that are the hallmark. I almost think it is easier to be generous with the big things than it is with the little things.

An example: I might give my tithes every week, but to be Christ-like, I must also be willing to give up my position in the line-up to get on a plane, to somebody else. This is the harder one for me.

In the tithes case, I am giving something that I budgeted for. In the airline case, I am giving away something that I didn't budget. Responding to the unexpected is always a challenge.