And thus I have summarized what my understanding of Christianity was for the first 18 or so years of my life. Now I very well realize that dealing with any of these topics opens a can of monkeys. If you want to get a lively discussion going amongst my congregation, skip church growth, evangelism, spiritual formation and other such issues and head straight for my titular topics. I choose to avoid the fray on these except to say that if you’re a member of a church that eschews these things, and yet you continue to include them in your lifestyle, then that is quite carnal. There may be argument over what things are equal to blasphemy in the eyes of the Lord, he writes tongue-in-cheek. There may be argument over which translations of the Bible will send you straight to the burning coals of hell in a heartbeat, or even if hell burns at all, he writes at risk of stirring up great disdain and displeasure. But if you agree to the yoke, or discipline, of the church by entering into membership, you should abide by it. If your church prohibits planting begonias, and yet you do so, you are in sin because you have renigged on your membership covenant. You see, covenants are in place to help us, as items of spiritual formation, to DISCIPLINE our unruly selves to the things of Christ, he writes knowing few people like to be disciplined. But alas, there is something even greater at foot that I wish to boot around.
It occurs to me that if you posted a giant picture of Bugs Bunny at the front of the church some Sunday, people would get more frothy and disturbed by that than they do about the hurts of the person sitting next to them. We get up in arms about issues of discipline, while we forsake issues of true soul health. Every potential “sin” has merit as a point of discussion and conclusion. But if we have no passion for those who are without Christ, then we’ve forsaken Jesus’ prime directive. Christ taught a ministry work that reaches out, seeks the hurting, helps the needy, and gives hope to those without hope. He ministered with healing hands, not slapping hands. (Yes, He did clear the temple… but that happened just once… this shows that there is a time and place for everything.)
There is a good reason why Scripture does not lay out specific answers to specific questions. For one thing, the Bible would weigh 17 tons if it did. Serious study of the Word of God (and I’m not talking about reading the verse of the day from “Daily Bread”) leads us to understand that the Bible deals with transformational thinking. Renewal. Restoration. Revival. These are themes that appear consistently in the Word. It would be right to understand that the Bible doesn’t address many specific issues at all, rather, we receive the invitation to be renewed of mind and instructions on how that happens. Spiritual formation teachings help us to grow this way.
God seems to love to answer prayers for wisdom. The problem is that we think we’ll instantly become an Encyclopedia Brown. A human Wiki. Instead, wisdom must be learned and used. If we pray for wisdom, we receive the opportunities to grow wiser. If we rebuff them, or fail to use what we learn, then we are forsaking the very wisdom we prayed for. Once, in college, I prayed for wisdom hoping it would get me through a biology test. Today, I pray that God will give me the mind to take in the vast riches of learning that is available for me, and that I will have the wisdom to know how to be wise!
It’s not that any one issue isn’t important. But when we become Christians made up of issues, rather than Christ-followers who seek to do the work of Christ, we’ve really missed the focus of the Gospel. Legalities and liberalism are both dangerous extremes. Let God be God, and let us be about His work, not ours.