Archive for September 12th, 2007
There is this never ending dance that revolves around the matter of the Law. (A dance in the way that Capoeira, the Brazilian martial art, is a dance). The first thrust is the suggestion that we no longer need the Law, that Jesus’ sacrifice has taken care of that. This is quickly parried, followed by a riposte from scripture in which Jesus says that he did not come to abolish the law, but fulfill it. (Matthew 5:17) A split decision.
We require a ruling, so we turn to our foremost referee, St. Paul, who speaks eloquently (if at times obtusely) on the subject. Variously he chastises those who fall into legalism, like the Galatians, while other times he creates new laws for us to worry about, as he does for the Corinthians.
But rather than listening exclusively to what Paul has to say about the Law I think we can learn more by focusing on his personal testimony. Even prior to his spectacular conversion on the Damascus Road he was a very devout and religious man. He rigidly adhered to the Mosaic Law and firmly believed that he was demonstrating loyal obedience to God. During this same time he also religiously pursued the persecution and murder of his fellow Jews.
After being exposed to the love and forgiveness of Jesus, Paul cast off his hateful nature like a badly stained yet expensive suit of clothes. He was able to do this not by following an old, abridged or new set of rules. It was done by identifying with the Messiah, putting his entire hope and trust in him. He expressed terrible remorse for the horrible things that he had done while under the Law just as he expressed grateful amazement at his salvation. Ironically, this salvation was made possible by the sacrifice of the only person to ever obey that Law, a sinless carpenter’s son from Nazareth.
Throughout the Bible we hear the stories of great men that God has chosen to lead his people. They diligently strived to be obedient and they likely did well at holding to the letter of the Law. Even so, they committed horrible crimes and practiced customs that stood in opposition to the Spirit of the Law. (Genesis 20: 1-13, 2 Samuel 11:14, 1 Kings 11: 1-10).
If Solomon is, in fact, the author of Ecclesiastes, he realizes too late that even a tremendously full and rich life serving God could still ring hollow at the end of the day. Unlike Saul of Tarsus, there was no conversion experience, no point early in their lives in which these men ‘repented’ of their ways and turned back to God, at least not in the way that we have been blessed through Christ Jesus.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light
He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
2 Corinthian 3:6
Some of the comments on the last couple of posts (“Osteen in the Lobby” and “Sounds Like the Devil”) have touched on something that I have been struggling with for some time:
Is today’s typical church paradigm even close to what Jesus envisioned two thousand years ago? And if it’s not, how important is this? After all, our society, culture, government and lifestyles are radically different than then. But these things are very different today than they were 150 years ago when the newer paradigm was first becoming common.
If we find the present situation wanting, then what do we do? Find a church that most closely fits our perception of how it should be? Or do we work towards remaking the church, a relatively slow and laborious process, something that the ’emergent’ conversation is so much about.
Or, as my good friend BuddyO is attempting, do we toss that paradigm aside and try something ‘new’. Rather than;
…rely solely on ‘the Pastor of the Day’ to tell them what God has to say to them (for some reason a seminary degree makes a pastor more qualified to tell me what God has to say to me than I do..?….?Yet another black mark for the modern church.)
Wouldn’t it be better for a small group to gather and read and meditate on a scripture then come together and hear what it speaks to one another?
Buddy is a close friend of mine and has been my Christian mentor for over five years. Not having been with the church as long as him may be the reason I have had a greater tendency to question the status quo (and at times entertain ideas with the flavor of ‘heresy’). I’ve felt that the church has lost much of its relevance for quite some time. Now, someone else is putting their money where my mouth is and I’ve got cold feet. Buddy is working through some of this on his website:
Last year there was an article in ‘Christianity Today’ about Mark Barna, church analyist and guru at large. In it he said this:
Are you worried about the church where you were baptized, taught, married, and given Communion? That’s only a “congregational-formatted ministry,” one of many ways to “develop and live a faith-centered life. We made it up.” Writes Barna, “Whether you become a Revolutionary immersed in, minimally involved in, or completely disassociated from a local church is irrelevant to me (and, within boundaries, to God).”
Barna illustrates with two fictional characters who “eliminated church life from their busy schedules.” Why? They did not find a ministry “that was sufficiently stimulating” and “their church, although better than average, still seems flat.” Too bad for the lowly local church that people today insist on having “unique, highly personalized church experiences.”
So where are the Revolutionaries going? To “mini-movements” such as home schooling, house churches, Bible studies at work, and Chris Tomlin worship concerts. What matters is a godly life, so “if a local church facilitates that kind of [godly] life, then it is good. And if a person is able to live a godly life outside of a congregation-based faith, then that, too, is good.
So, what do you think.