Saturday, January 05, 2008

One Body Divided

I've been troubled about some things I see in the church. If we are all "the" church, as in one body, one bride of Christ, why does this group think they are better than the rest of the groups which gather in other places? I'm not being clear, so let me restate this.

In the tradition I grew up in, the "denomination" for lack of a better word, people often said that we met in "the New Testament way" and some were even overheard to say that they were glad they didn't go to those other churches where they didn't teach the truth. The pervasive attitude seemed to be that of pride that we have the corner on truth. What relief people felt that we had the proper interpretation of Scripture and what horror we felt at the thought that we might have wound up with one of those "other" churches where they didn't know the truth. The air of superiority that many displayed was nauseating. Of particular contempt were the charismatics and those churches that used contemporary music, guitars and electrical equipment and "didn't show proper respect", by which it was meant that they didn't dress up, that some women wore pants, some men jeans and that they didn't follow the rules for dress that they believed scripture ordained. The service, they felt, did not have appropriate formality and seriousness.

I now attend a church that uses contemporary music, guitars, keyboard, drums, electric guitars and bass, and makes every attempt to put biblical teaching in the language of today. While I love this church, I also love my old church and find that there is some of the same attitude here. There is a disdain for traditional churches and their members, for hymns and even old Christmas carols that disturbs me. In my old church there was a disdain for the young and for a passionate pursuit of God that wasn't always restrained and dignified (and where is that in scripture?) In this church, I hear (though not from the leadership) a contempt for traditional denominational churches and a lack of understanding and respect for the Christians of yesterday and the faith of our fathers.

The music that is so often disdained on both sides is the outpouring of hearts that love God. Why shouldn't we all rejoice in that? The sacrifice of the past generations should be respected by the current, and the passions of the young should bring joy to the hearts of their elders. There was a time when those hymns were considered as scandalous as the new music of today. There was a time when the church was horrified by musical instruments, by parts, by the joining of voice and instruments, by the voices of women. People whose hearts were filled with their love of Christ defied those standards, not out of rebellion, but out of love and passion. That same passion and love rules in the hearts of the young.

The young reject not just the restrictive forms of the traditional churches, but the members themselves, not recognizing the preservation of the gospel by those who have gone before, by their sacrificial giving that allowed missions to the furthest parts of the earth. They seem unaware of the hours of labor, the years of devotion and service their older brothers and sisters have given to the cause of Christ.

We spend so much time concerned with our own comfort and our own likes and dislikes that we aren't as concerned about the church as a whole as we should be. Whether we like it or not, the gray-haired wrinkled fuddy-duddy and the rainbow-haired, tattoed, pierced kids in black tees and jeans are brothers and sisters. We are one. One body, one bride, one church.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Missed Lesson

The preacher claimed financial abundance
was promised to all who believed
Ignoring the promise of trials
Jesus gave to those who are his.
He claims we all get health! and wealth!
Right here! Right now! For you and me.
But Jesus (who is our example)
had nowhere to lay his head.
No savings, no stocks, no bank account,
With heaven his only home.
His friends would turn and deny him,
His body abused and torn
But the preacher claims there is none of that
for those who rightly are his.
What about Stephen, the stoned one,
Or Paul who was beated and jailed,
Peter who died upside-down on a cross,
John the Baptist beheaded and scorned?
Can you tell me how Preacher misses that?
Is it deliberate blindness he grasps?
Does he willingly knowingly teach a lie?
If he does I can only wonder why? Why?

Listening to Others

I was thinking the other day...someone I know has offered advice which I am not taking and that makes them really irritated and they make some snippy comments. I sat for a while thinking about what would happen if I went along with them simply to appease them and lose their sneering. Imagining I had gone along with their advice I wrote the following:

I did what they wanted because to resist what they believed to be wise earned their contempt. In doing so I resisted my own wisdom and earned my own contempt. Of the two, mine is harsher.

This is how we resist the temptation to go along simply to get along. The contempt of others is rarely as hard to take as our own, but sometimes the pain of someone's critical remarks causes us to do something we believe is foolish or wrong unless we evaluate what is in our heart, our mind, our own conscience. Surely there is a time for striving to earn the high opinion of another, but never at the expense of our own self-respect.