Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Life in the Fast Lane

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?

                                        Galatians 5.7

Old School Theology

Debates about who qualifies to follow Christ are nothing new. In fact, discrimination against GLBT believers is fairly recent. The long list of targets preceding us includes the illiterate, scientists, racial minorities, and women. And believe it or not, one of the first controversies that divided Christians centered on circumcision.

While most early Christians agreed that Jesus brought God’s grace to all people, a small—but vigorously vocal—minority insisted it belonged exclusively to Jews. Therefore, before any Gentile could accept it, he had to be circumcised first. Where this notion came from is anybody’s guess. It certainly didn’t come from Jesus.

It troubled sincere Gentiles. And it greatly vexed Paul, who worried that their desire to please God could persuade them to obey the circumcision mandate. It was Old School theology, directly contradicting the New Order instituted by Christ. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again.” (Galatians 5.1)

Sunday Drivers

“You were moving along,” Paul said, “Who got in your way and slowed you down?” The question remains relevant. Today, we still encounter believers with all sorts of conditions for following Jesus. Their motives may be pure, but what they promote never is. Requirements attached to those directly given from Christ saddle us with unnecessary burdens. We don’t need them because He set us free. 

Jesus was the greatest communicator of all time. His words were precise, His standards were clear, and He meant for us to guide ourselves accordingly. He left us nothing to add or remove. Those who do are like Sunday drivers. They create bottlenecks. They cause accidents. They’re dangerous.

Keep Moving

In 1 Thessalonians 5.14, Paul wrote, “Warn those who are idle.” There’s just no time to get hung up behind extraneous doctrine. The road to perfection in Christ is long enough already. It demands constant drive and attention. When we permit others to cut in on us with their ideas, we risk slowing down, crashing, or running out of gas.

An old songwriter once said, “I’ve got a long way to go to be like the Lord.” Boy, was he right. If we’re truly serious about going the distance, we’ve got to keep moving.   

Which lane are you in?


Anonymous said...

So well written, and still fairly blunt. Very timely for me, even though I'm a year late in reading it.

I'm going to hold on to this one. It really speaks to me as I'm still "adjusting" to a new church. I'm trying to let go of my old "religions" and just soak up what I can out of the services.

I think I'll pass this along to pastor as well. I think it's also an encouraging post for the congregation, as the worship format is undergoing changes.

Thanks Tim!

(Hope you and Walt have a great holiday!)

Tim said...

Thanks for the compliment, Jake. When I go back to these early posts, I'm too horrified by my eager use of boldface they're tough to read. (I did it on the advice of a blog-reading friend, who was convinced it would help readers who preferred to scan posts rather than read them word for word. Not always true, it turns out.)

Getting believers "on the same page" will require them to let some of their favorite pages fall aside. That won't happen without them standing back and looking at the Gospel as a whole. Once they grasp its binding mandate--to reflect God's love, grace, and acceptance to others, bringing them into the light of forgiveness--they immediately recognize singling out a scripture here and another there to justify anyone's exclusion defeats the purpose.

But a church that commits to lifting Christ, Who promised to draw "all men" unto Him, will flourish in unity based on their common purpose. We were never authorized to keep folks out. We were called to bring them in.

Finally, I sympathize with your adjustments to the styles and methods of a new tradition. Jumping from the relaxed style and emotionally charged atmosphere of Pentecostal worship to the more rigid liturgy and reserved mood of the "high" Presbyterian church we now attend took time to get used to. I had to let some things I treasured most from my background go so I could gain others that were so crucial to my spiritual growth and personal dignity. Every time I got a little "homesick" I reminded myself why I left home to begin with and thanked God for leading me to a new home that welcomed Walt and me and cared for our souls. My gratitude and respect for that flipped my perceptions from what I missed to what I'd been denied--it put both worship experiences in a whole new light.

(Didn't mean to rattle on here, but as we're back in the archives, I don't think others will find this overly annoying.)

Stay encouraged. Be true. And grow in God's love and grace. You'll be fine. Meanwhile, enjoy your holiday with Cody and anyone else you share it with--and thank God for being free!

Blessings always,