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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

what's the secret password?

i picked this title because the church tends to be like a secret society where you have to know the right way to dress, act and speak in order to be a part of the group. they will welcome you in, but there always seem to be conditions. christian posted an excerpt from a book in a recent post called, blue like jazz by donald miller. i highly recommend it. miller describes his book, "nonreligious thoughts on christian spirituality." if you are not a christian i recommend it even more because i think it will present a christianity that you have never encountered. here is an excerpt of my own that speaks to this issue of conditional church membership.

before i quote the passage, i want to sincerely repent to those people that i have placed conditions on for my friendship. i also want to apologize for the church as a whole for you who have been rejected by the church just because you may have not fit in to the mold. here's what donald wrote on page 215-216:

I began to understand that my pastors and leaders were wrong, that the liberals were not evil, they were liberal for the same reason Christians were Christians, because they believed their philosophies were right, good, and beneficial for the world. I had been raised to believe there were monsters under the bed, but I had peeked, in a moment of bravery, and found a wonderful world, a good world, better, in fact, than the one I had known.

The problem with Christian community was that we had ethics, we had rules and laws and principles to judge each other against. There was love in Christian community, but it was conditional love. Sure, we called it unconditional, but it wasn't. There were bad people in the world and good people in the world. We were raised to believe this. If people were bad, we treated them as though they were either evil or charity: If they were bad and rich, they were evil. If they were bad and poor, they were charity. Christianity was always right; we were always looking down on everybody else. And I hated this. I hated it with a passion. Everything in my soul told me it was wrong. It felt, to me, as wrong as sin. I wanted to love everybody. I wanted everything to be cool. I realize this sounds like tolerance, and to many in the church the word tolerance is profanity, but that is precisely what I wanted. I wanted tolerance. I wanted everybody to leave everybody else alone, regardless of their relgious beliefs, regardless of their political affiliation. I wanted people to like each other. Hatred seemed, to me, the product of ignorance. I was tired of biblical ethic being used as a tool with which to judge people rather than heal them. I was tired of Christian leaders using biblical principles to protect their power, to draw a line in the sand separating the good army from the bad one....
Does this impact you like it did me? I would love to hear your thoughts. Sorry it is so long.


At 9:41 PM, February 16, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

I met a guy in the coffee shop this morning (imagine that, me in a coffee shop!), and as we talked the subject of Christian Televangelists came up. His take was extremely interesting.

He cited a recent critique of a Republican gathering, where the reporter said something to the effect of, "they were using all these conservative buzz words, but they didn't really mean anything by them, other than 'I'm conservative (because I'm saying the buzzwords), I'm on your side, I'm ok'"

That, is precisely how this young man perceives Christian evangelicals. We say all these words, but we don't actually mean anything by them. We're just using them to identify who's in, and who's out.

I found his comments both insightful and convicting - if anything, he was a bit generous, because (as Donald Miller) notes, in many cases we not only require the buzz, but we require a code of conduct as well.

And that's really where the question lies - what do I have to do in order to really be a Xian? Do I have to just believe in Jesus? Or is it faith plus something else?

Sure I know we preach the former with our lips, but just like Ryan I am guilty of having preached the latter with my life. By making my approval conditional I have implicitly told unbelievers that they need to do something more than just put their faith in Christ. They need to conform to my expectations.

That's pretty scary, actually, because in so doing I have just transformed the gospel of life into a message of death. Is it any wonder people aren't buying what most Christians are selling?

At 11:05 PM, February 16, 2005, Blogger Charles said...

One of the reasons that I think that Bible thumping on the street corner or having a show called the 700 Club doesn’t work is because people just see words. These things are good for a laugh sometimes though. I knew Brian for months before I found out that he was a Christian. I saw how he treated me, and I saw how he lived his life, and I really respected that. Then, I found out that he was a Christian. Now, this alone doesn’t necessarily make me any more inclined to be a Christian, but it does make me inclined to be accepting of Christianity and curious about it, because they live their faith by example instead of just preaching it with no action behind it. People have to see that, and, as the old saying goes, you can’t do that on television.

Is there ever a line that we draw in “forgiveness”? What if one of your friends beat his wife, who was also one of your friends? Should you allow him in your house, even if he doesn’t repent? Can you really forgive him, or would it be empty forgiveness, like, “I know, I’m a Christian, so I have to forgive him, because that’s what I’m supposed to do.” When can we draw the line on unconditional love? Even if we “forgive” these people, could we really love them the way we should when we don’t trust him around our kids? Is there like an exception, when you are protecting people like your family, who you frankly love “more”?

At 9:24 AM, February 17, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coming from a conservative background myself, I see all too clearly the division between conservative Christians and liberal Christians. In many circles, I'll find pre-requisites on both sides. Those that judge the other are all bound by the same thing. I didn't understand it for so long. I hated the conditions set by the church, set by the intolerant ones. The Reformation only liberated Christians to worship as they pleased, but held to their standards as strictly as the Catholic Church - or the government at that time. It's really been the past couple years that I've really found freedom in the gospel. Not because of what the church says, but because of what the Bible says and how the Spirit moves me to conviction. It's only because I've seen the truth that I know it's real. And I've only seen it b/c He's opened my eyes.

There are Christians out there that are free enough in the gospel that they know not to set conditions, pre-requisites, or use lingo that doesn't mean anything. They are the ones that are truly free and not bound by human limitations.

We all have our own limits of tolerance for everything we believe. For those that are tolerant of everything and everyone's actions, they don't believe anything. It's about respecting others for who they are as people and NOT respecting what they do or how they behave. There must be a line of narrowmindedness to believe something.

I don't mean to contradict my previous statement about hating the conditions the church has set on members or other Christians. But I understand that the church, like us humans, is faulty and sinful. It will alienate people simply b/c it's in a sinful world filled with sinful people. Understanding that fact will free us from judging both ourselves and others and clear our sight to see the person and not the sin.

At 7:16 PM, February 17, 2005, Blogger rs said...

i want to respond to charlesdog first...

you are exactly right in your first usual we agree on so much! as for your second paragraph, i think you may be confusing 2 situations. the friend you are describing hasn't really sinned against you in such a way that you need to forgive him...he may have proved himself to be untrustworthy and so, no i would not really want him hanging around my kids.

however, you do bring up an interesting point about forgiveness. it's not easy to forgive someone who constantly wrongs us and, particularly as husbands and fathers, we need to realize that God has given them to us as a gift for us to care for and we should not put them in immediate harm's way. with that said, we also have to remember Jesus' answer to the same question, "how many times should we forgive someone who wrongs us, 7 times?" Jesus' answer? "seventy times 7."

the issue is really this...forgiveness is not really for the person who has wronged us. it is for us. by becoming bitter or holding a grudge, we really only hurt ourselves and create a prison as we stew about them. likewise, we have to ask what is really motivating our desire to not forgive. for me, i hold grudges because i want to punish the other person and i would rather serve my own desire to feel righteous, justified and in control of the relationship. but jesus tells us that the entire bible can be summed up in terms of relationships - first to God and then to others. the other issue for a christian is that we realize how much God has forgiven us, and so we need to extend the same forgiveness. it isn't easy, but again, it is necessary to truly live free lives. if we harbor bitterness, we create a prison.

to anonymous...i really appreciate your perspective on this issue of tolerance and who's right and who's wrong. maybe both sides need to realize we might both be wrong! i don't know about you, but i hate admitting i'm wrong! but that's what christian fellowship is all about. admitting fault and loving and accepting each other anyway.

At 9:10 PM, February 17, 2005, Anonymous drsimrak said...

I agree. Conservative or Liberal doesn't matter to God. What does matter is how we each individually live our lives before our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus told us to remove the plank from our own eye so that we may be able to see clearly to remove the speck from our brothers' eye. I don't think we do that.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say to hate homosexuals or liars or thieves or adulterers but rather love them and hate the sin. Do we do that on a daily basis. Are we moved with compassion for those around us who are living in sin? Does this cause us to draw closer to our heavenly Father in order to bear witness or Him?

The way that we as Christians are perceived in this world. The reason why in America there seems to be this growing intolerance of Christians is because we have failed to discern between the sin and the sinner.

I think it is apalling that a person of wealth would think it equal to scream about the injustice of the poor and yet live the life of luxury without actually working to make their lives better. I think it is right that Christians be upset by this attitude but, before we point the finger at those "liberals" we need to ask ourselves, Are we doing everything we can to help the poor?

If I'm not doing anything, who am I to even broach the subject? The Scriptures tell us that we are to judge no man. That is reserved for God. In the book of Revelation it says when God comes to judge the earth, He will judge those that did not accept Jesus as their Savior according to their own standards.

The point? If someone is talking one way and doing something different, they will be accountable before the God of heaven. God will deal with this injustice.

Before we point the finger we need to make sure that we are living the way we are called and in doing so, we will find in the end that we have absolutely no reason to point the finger at all.

At 9:23 PM, February 17, 2005, Anonymous GSimrak said...

Ryan, I passed this blogspot on to members in our home fellowship. I think many will find it challenging and encouraging at the same time. I know I appreciate it.

At 11:50 PM, February 17, 2005, Blogger Charles said...

RS: But we were talking about unconditional love. I don't love this person anymore because of what he did. Isn't part of loving someone welcoming them into your life? If he came to my door, I would not let him in. Doesn't that mean that my love has a condition (i.e. not beating your wife and kids)?

I would say that he did sin against me. He has come to my house many times, along with his family. They were a part of my community growing up. What one does to my brother or sister, they do to me. If I don't let him in my house, have I truly forgiven him?

This seems to be where the idealistic goal of unconditional love and forgiveness comes in direct conflict with life. Hey, maybe that is sin, but I don't think that I can ever forgive people for those kind of actions if they haven't made amends.


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