Bite, devour, repeat. Why?
I’ve considered writing this for years. After reading near-countless bits of both deeply thoughtful, theological, doctrinal and methodological as well as cultural and subcultural arguments/discussions/articles I suppose it’s time.
Mind you, this is NOT about civil politics unless you consider church politics in the mix. Did I just use the word “civil” there… no matter, but I want to discuss a particular term I rarely hear admitted to among Christians.
I’ve met amazingly deep, loving, gracious and truly holier than myself or anyone reading this followers of Jesus as well as abrasive, arrogant, sometimes brilliant and at other times rather ignorant people in every and I mean nearly every gathering of professing Christians you’d care to consider.
The extremes on the spectrum of organized (“organizational”, institutional, systematic, highly structural) groups all the way to folks who gather on occasion in the most ad-hoc, Daili-like (think clocks melting off the table painting) disorganized or by choice non-organized-who-cares-let’s-hang-out/casual gatherings of folks. I’ve found genuine, spiritually mature disciples and louts in both extremes, godly people and pretty regular acting-out jerks in both climates. But then I’ve traveled in and out and among such varied sorts of people and in other countries and continents for years. So you get the picture, right?
What about the title of this blog? Simple. Some prefer to diss other, or certain kinds/styles of organization. They prefer their “religion”, their shared spiritual gatherings to be disorganized -and at times rail, rag on and diss anybody who thinks or actually sees some sort of authentic spiritual value among professing Christians who do other than they do.
Indeed, the very same harsh critiques, at times even word-for-word sentences have been used (and I’ve heard ’em plenty over the wide swatch of the larger Church/Body of Christ) on BOTH ends of the spectrum about “THOSE people over THERE who are doing it WRONG!!”.
The highly organized traditional church folks can be as nasty, caustic and elitist as anyone considering anyone who links in another “form” of congregation a mutt, a peon, unlearned, illiterate and immature largely based in the lack of liturgy or chosen spiritual understandings/positions of THEIR “pristine” group.
Punchline? In just a short paragraph it’s coming…
See, it’s clear that theology (the study and beliefs about God Himself), doctrine (teachings of The Bible) and certainly methodology (really, methodologIES) are among some individuals, some groups, some local or denominational or church stream leadership OR congregations -truly considered after deep prayer, years of study, a load of travel, vast experience and so on. And still Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 (the LOVE chapter!) “AT PRESENT I have PARTIAL knowledge” as well as “WE have PARTIAL knowledge”. IMperfect folks! Humility is such a need for each and all of us!!
Can anyone honestly deny our own INDIVIDUAL flaws in thought, study, conclusions about God, His Word and “what the church should look like” especially when we all know we sin, do not always act in love, mis-judge and often vote, vote with our feet, leave, join, start a new congregation or plain quit any regular assembling in any congregational sort of way due to PERSONAL AND SOMETIMES SHARED ***PREFERENCE***?!
That’s the knockout for me, all too often it’s a matter of preference.
I rarely ever hear or read that term used in the fights, the splits, the castigation and outright ugliness of Christians vs. Christians.
Who has the sense, guts and brutal honesty to quit claiming it’s all or only about biblical interpretation when a great deal (certainly not always) we do as we do because we LIKE it “this way” rather than “that way”.
How quick believers have all-too-often been to demonize, to dump it into social media, to scream at one another, to preach against “THOSE people” meeting on the other corner due to our shared and their not-shared PREFERENCES.
To be very clear:
“PREFER”- to promote or advance to a rank or position, to like better or best, to give priority
And the kicker? YOU dear reader, as well as your friends, those who agree with you on any number of matters are and shall be tempted to bad-rap and trash-talk others for whom Jesus died with regard to “how” they “do” and/or “don’t do” church often on the basis of preference. So of COURSE “God/The Spirit TOLD me/us” to do it like that! CERTAINLY “the very Word of God COMMANDS we meet thusly”… etc., ad nauseam.
As for Jesus’ commands that His disciples love God supremely and “love one another as I have loved you”? Uhhhh… I say THOSE people don’t get it and are a blight to the cause of Christ!! Right?
Not all, no, not all… but so much of this has to do with preferences that if THEY had the upper hand they’d likely snatch ’em from you -and you of course with the upper hand would never agree with their preferences either… though you’d about kill for your “right” to establish and maintain yours whether organized, near-totally fluid or somewhere in-between as it so suits you.
Hmmm. Still praying for revival among Christians? Still want a fresh “reformation”? Reformed to what? If it’s the “form” or lack thereof you prefer, be very careful you’re not playing the very authority card you are so very judgmental about “THEM over there” playing…
“Let love make you serve one another”? Nowhere in sight of this sort of rotten habit.
What does Jesus Christ prefer? Really?
After all the hard work of honest and thorough interpretation work, countless prayers, fasting, studies of church history near and wide down through the ages it yet seems to me that at times we are not honest enough to admit we want our preference to at least run our own local “show” but are rather offish if not outright combative when our neighbor wants the same freedom of expression.
This is why love- “agape”, God’s love, mercy, grace and forgiveness as well as flexibility, change, loss and yet compassion must rule over passion and personal preferences sometimes disguised as “the work of the Spirit”. Holy wars happen without them. The historical church’s “trail of tears” is long.
May we learn to separate preference and comfort from “the will of God”, for in all circumstances His will is love.
Things to consider perhaps?
As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn