…what business is it of mine to judge outsiders (non-believers)?… God alone sits in judgement on those who are outside [the faith]. REMOVE THE WICKED ONE FROM AMONG YOU [expel him from your church].
1 Corinthians 5:12-13 (AMP)
How often have those within the Church sought to impose their beliefs on those outside the Church? How often have those within the Church sought to cover up acts of pure wickedness in an attempt to keep up appearances, to save face or to maintain the impression of an impeccable leadership? I wish it were possible to say ‘never’.
In various circles that I participate in, multitudes of books and sermons have been coming out lately about the need to be “unoffendable.” The idea being, that anytime someone feels snubbed, hurt, bothered, upset, overly concerned, or even in some cases, abused – by those in their circle (or particularly leadership in a church), […]
via Being “Unoffendable?” — All Things are Yours
Excellent post from Heather at All Things are Yours.
We each have our inner program for happiness, our plans by which we can be secure, esteemed and in control, and are blissfully unaware that these cannot work for us for the long haul – without our becoming more and more control freaks ourselves… what makes so much religion so innocuous, ineffective and even unexciting is that there has seldom been a concrete ‘decision to turn our lives over to the care of God’… wilfulness [runs] rampant… there are about the same percentage of people who have actually handed over their will to God in most church circles as there are people who I meet at many ‘secular’ gatherings.
~ from Breathing Under Water by Richard Rohr
I find that this is a process that sometimes needs to be repeated, especially when I fall into the mire of comparison. Our culture thrives on comparisons, we judge one another and we judge ourselves. I grew up in a very judgemental family. God has been showing me the patterns of behaviour that I have inadvertently perpetuated, particularly those that my children see, whether towards myself or others. Thinking myself better than others is a form of self-deceit. Thinking myself less than others is deceptive and equally destructive. As soon as I surrender my will to His, I begin to be capable of loving myself, and others, as God does – no more, no less. This is ‘through a glass darkly’. This is grace.
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.
extract from 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (NRSVA)
…[I once saw] these shocking words in chalk on the sidewalk… ‘I watch how foolishly man guards his nothing, thereby keeping Me out. Truly God is hated here.’ …I knew there was some truth in what that person wrote, especially in a country where most people are quite comfortable churchgoers and almost all of us do ‘guard our nothing’… It is a knowing that we folks inside the system are not privy to, whereas the beggars to the system see it clearly…
What Jesus and all of the prophets are trying to do is to make sure that all of us have that experience somewhere in our lives of being on the losing side, knowing how much it hurts to hurt… or being someone who has been looked down upon for any reason. That place outside of the system is a liminal space where transformation and conversion is much more likely.
Isn’t it ironic that most of the gospel has probably been preached and taught by people who are very comfortable?
~ Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality
I don’t live in a country where most people are churchgoers. A century ago that might have been the case. WWI saw many British people lose their faith, probably because of exactly what Rohr writes in the above extract. However, there has long been a general complacency within what’s left. Church in many cases has become (or has always been) ‘something we do on a Sunday’. It’s about committees and jumble sales and wearing nice clothes: very middle class and comfortable.
No wonder I left the church I grew up in! Thankfully I did it because I wanted more of God, not less. No wonder the young have, generation by generation, left what they knew of Christianity. Even as a child I could see the gap between what was taught by Jesus and what was actually occurring. They weren’t awful people. They were all very well-meaning, but it was all built around something which had no substance. A puff of air and it all falls apart. This is not what it means to follow Christ. ‘Love one another’ has to hurt.
‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds…’
Why are our churches so full of pride? Why do we find so many people within the body of Christ whose goal is to be ‘right’ or ‘the best’ or in power? Why are there so many who would exclude and look down on others for certain things, but they neither offer a hand in love nor cease their own wrongdoings? Why is pride so often overlooked? Why do we let this incredibly destructive sin course through the very veins of the Church? Why is this so rarely preached about? I can recall a single sermon on humility. That’s it. In decades.
Reading the following scripture this morning made me think of our church’s new pastor. One of his foremost qualities that I really appreciate is his humility. He’s ready and willing to be a ‘true disciple’. How very sad that this is so rare.
[Jesus said,] ‘The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers… I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’
Luke 18:9-14, NRSVA
Humility is not optional in the Kingdom.
If the mind that needs to make moral judgements about everything is the master instead of the servant, religion is almost always corrupted. Some would think that is the whole meaning of Christianity: to be able to decide who’s going to heaven and who isn’t. This is much more a search for control than it is a search for truth, love or God. It has to do with ego, which needs to pigeonhole everything to give itself that sense of ‘I know’ and ‘I am in control of the data’… I guess God knew that such would be the direction that religion would take, so God said, “Don’t do it! Don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
~ Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality
“Don’t judge other people and you will not be judged yourselves. Don’t condemn and you will not be condemned. Make allowances for others and people will make allowances for you. Give and men will give to you—yes, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will they pour into your lap. For whatever measure you use with other people, they will use in their dealings with you.”
~ Luke 6:37-38, JB Phillips
Have done, then, with impurity and every other evil which touches the lives of others, and humbly accept the message that God has sown in your hearts, and which can save your souls. Don’t I beg you, only hear the message, but put it into practice; otherwise you are merely deluding yourselves… Religion that is pure and genuine in the sight of God the Father will show itself by such things as visiting orphans and widows in their distress and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.
~ James 1:21,22,27
I wonder if ‘keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world’ means what we think it means?