So, if you took the time to read the first part of this post,which can be found here, I hope the point being conveyed to you is not that my issue is with the church as a whole or even a specific individual. I’m simply looking at things that could be and should be done better, though understandingly never perfect. I also can’t do this myself without first understanding that I should strive for better as well. For example, In my previous post I mentioned “turned up eyebrows” over a specific behavior contrary to normal, but I had neglected to delve deeper and ask why. I also sat and waited for an offered cup of coffee and talk that never happened. In other words, I failed. I think I may have failed even more, because I’m probably the one more aware of it. Now, I work in law enforcement and in my job I often see two disagreeing people having their fate decided by a third-party. What I notice most often is that the truth of the matter between the two, is usually a mix of both sides. I think it’s the same here. I don’t claim the high ground and I’m not writing this to be accusatory. I suppose there are enough connections that someone I know might finally read this. If they do I hope that the view leans more toward,” how can we avoid these mistakes again”, then, “that guys a jerk.” Though, I would probably deserve the latter.
With that said, here is the remainder of my list of things I’ve learned in church and wish I didn’t.
6. Sadly, I’ve learned that people are more eager to tell you how to stand in victory, then kneel in repentance.
This is another general observation on church life. Many churches have a “rah-rah” spirit about them today. There is a focus on “standing in victory” and while the term is true in general, we have to be honest and acknowledge that we ALL suffer many defeats in this life and some downright debilitating. Whether emotionally wrecked, physically ill or dry as a bone, we go through moments of despair, of struggles, and of sin. When the word repent comes up, it is often almost immediately overpowered by positive affirmations of victory and healing. I have found personally through my own struggles, that the biggest victory comes IN repentance. To be perfectly honest, I’m talking about flat-out, on your face, crying over your sin and really, truly reflecting on the God who forgives us. I think church life sees repentance more as a stepping stone than a cornerstone. We need to take time with people and let them know that when they do struggle with sin and doubt, that through Christ, forgiveness is readily available like a waterfall we run through daily. It’s okay to let them get up slowly and be overwhelmed a little longer under that waterfall of forgiveness. Let them contemplate the notion that once again, the God of the universe truly and utterly forgives them and is ready to do it again EVENTUALLY and there will be another “eventually”. True victory is found on our knees in our utter defeat, so that Christ may be our victor for us.
7. Sadly, I’ve learned that it’s more important to be forgiving of bad teaching than forgiving of the one that questions it.
This is again, a general church observation, but one I’ve noticed locally as well. The only explanation I have for it, is that the bad teaching is usually considered to be under “inspiration of the spirit.” The reason to accept it is given as, “for unity of the body.” It’s almost as if we don’t want to get fooled by that pesky old devil, so I’m not gonna listen when something in me says, “did God really say that?” Or to say it more clearly, “is that what that scripture really means?” The movement today seems to be unity at all cost. So when you tell a brother, “this may be no good”, you get, “well, God used it anyway, because so and so was encouraged, so back off.” God uses wretched men and woman for his purposes here, so could he use your twisted understandings for his glory? Of that, there is no doubt, of course he could.. But should we excuse it all away? No, I don’t believe so. It’s amazing how we tell people to strive to be better, don’t continue sinning, love God. Shouldn’t that include our understanding of God? I think so. If your interested in a specific example, read Context, Context, Context. (Did God Really Say That?)
8. Sadly I’ve learned that if you don’t follow someone’s “godly advice”, you may just be considered outside the faith.
This one’s a doozy. It comes via a friend who was told that they would not be considered a part of the body of Christ, because they didn’t follow what someone’s claim was God’s rule on a very specific matter. I am reluctant to elaborate except to say that it wasn’t on a primary belief issue. I can tell you that what a friend was being told twists God’s Word in one place and contradicts it elsewhere. In what was a difficult season for their life for a variety of reasons, the last thing that they need to be told is, “hey God’s not really for you.” This boils down to someone’s opinion and not the truth of God’s Word. More specifically, this is the hammer of law being wailed upon their heads rather than the grace of the cross that says, I love and forgive you. What should you do you in this situation? What should this person walk away with, law of condemnation or the beautiful gospel of peace and reconciliation? You should love the person, encourage them, and pray for them. What you don’t do is apply your twisted understanding to a person’s difficult situation and condemn them. I guarantee you, that they have their struggle in all of it. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have confided in you and looked for encouragement from the body.
9. Sadly, I’ve learned that the outside of the cup is still the “plumb-line” for “true” faith.
As little as we see people sometimes, we use works to gauge a person’s faith or level of faith way too much. We will hold high the diligent worker in the church as a shining example of everything we should aspire to. That was me to some degree. Though outwardly, I never (often) sought accolades, inwardly, it felt good. It felt good because it was an indication for me that I was doing “it” right. You know, it meaning Christianity. It didn’t matter how much sin I was quietly struggling with or even diving headfirst into. That’s the problem with lifting an individual up or gauging the validity of a person’s salvation on whether or not your serving or doing. I can see the accusations forming in the minds now, even as you read this, “You think you don’t have to do anything?” Of course, that’s a ridiculous argument. But it’s the cry levied against people who preach God’s grace much better than I could EVER blog about it. Knowing Christ saves you, WILL lead to works. Even if the only work they do is serving their family and neighbor. Unless your staking out their house, you haven’t a clue how much “work” they’re actually doing. Unless of course, the works your gauging is very specifically what work is being done in the church, which would be so small in relation to their entire daily lives, it really isn’t a fair scale to measure by. Let’s let the plumb line of salvation be in the finished work of Christ. Let’s not hold up works as the example to follow but hold up the Christ who was the perfect example for us that we couldn’t ever be, before Christ OR after.
10. Finally and sadly I’ve learned that when it comes to church, silence is golden and it shouldn’t be.
This Last one is all me.. As I stated earlier, I have a mouth and I’m not afraid to use it, but I should be. I should be more cautious with my words and more considerate in how I say things. But there’s a flip side, …Silence. Silence can get interpreted as there are no problems, at least none that need to be talk about. Silence is everything is pretty cool and church is right on track. Silence can also be “get in line or get out”. It doesn’t matter if your thoughts are sinful and the struggle is still there. Silence is out of sight, out of mind. Silence means there ARE problems, it’s just no one is willing to talk about them and/or no one seems to care all that much. It is sadly, at times, the default state of the church. I was reminded today silence also comes in the form of talking as well. But talking about inconsequential thing that have no real bearing on life, salvation and everything in-between. It’s safe and it’s a form of silence with words.
As I close on this topic:
I can’t help but think about my own sin and struggles, the ones that are regulated now only to my mind and the others that are still part of my actions. I have no major answers except to know you’re a sinner that always needs Christ as Savior.. And that knowing you always need Christ as Savior, bending your knee to him in repentance, makes him Lord as well.