Monday, June 20, 2011

Tranparency and the Second Greatest Commandment

I grew up in a culture of "project the good and hide the bad" all in the name of attracting people to Christ.  There is some value in being attractive, but if that attractiveness is built largely on pretense, of what value is it?  The world is fed pretense daily.  It craves authenticity.  So do I.

It's been hard for me to go against some of what I was taught growing up.  I've battled, thought, re-thought, and re-battled my way through, but I've come to the unsettling conclusion that this is a path that I must take.  There is no option.

I crave authenticity.  I crave truth - ugly truth if it needs to be, but truth.

I grew up a MK.  We always had to "put on a front".  We had to "act nice".  Whatever you felt or did... we had to put it down and put on a smile when we were with people.  The lost need to see Jesus in us.  The home churches need to see "a nice missionary family".  My family has had serious problems, but we kept quiet and smiled.

I also grew up confused.  We moved away every two years or so.  Different churches, different fellowships, different groups that we belonged to.  When we were in one place, we were there.  We took on many of their values.  This and that became right and the standard.  Next move... those very "right things" changed.  It puzzled me.

I also grew up isolated.  This led to more confusion.  Let me explain.  We were so convinced we were right.  We had the ultimate doctrine, the edge on truth.  We were right.  We were so right that we constantly pointed out how we were right and where others were wrong.  Oh, we loved them, yes, but they were sadly mistaken, tragically confused, blindly misled.... 

But being so incredibly right is very isolating.  No one else is right, too.  I wondered about an isolated Christianity.  It seemed contrary to how Christianity was portrayed in the Bible.

Unity was valued in my upbringing, but unity was limited to unity with those who believed the "pure truth" as we did.  Few met that criteria.  I learned early to detect deviations from "truth".  I could reason for my particular view of end times, of spiritual gifts, of worship styles, of ministry styles, even missions theories.  We were thoroughly taught to keep ourselves separated from the world.  We were equally well taught to keep ourselves separated from those in the church who believed wrong doctrine.

I swallowed that without thinking.  After all, "holy" meant "set apart" or "separate".  I don't know how many sermons I heard on Isaiah 52:11 Depart, depart, go out from there, Touch nothing unclean; Go out of the midst of her, purify yourselves, You who carry the vessels of the LORD.  We were to remain separate from anything unclean.

But then there is Jesus.  He sort of threw a monkey wrench in the whole theology.  I don't see Him separating from society.  He hung out with sinners - I did know that.  But He also taught in the temple and synagogues.  He spoke with all - sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans, and even religious leaders who were too chicken to follow Him publicly, but sat in the very midst of those who condemned Jesus to death.

Not exactly your poster child for the remain separate from the world and from those who do not believe as we do theology.

I'm beginning to think that holiness has much more to do with what is inside of me and less with whose company I keep.  That what is in my heart is more important than what people see.  That I can not be defiled by other people, but only by my own sin.  (This sentence is sitting in my heart with tremendous power now for more than one reason.)

Jesus answered the Pharisee correctly.  The greatest commandment, the whole law, can be summed up in this commandment, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your mind, and your soul."  The second follows on its heels, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."

I choose to believe these.  I reject the lie that love is only for the good.  That we only love those whose doctrine is right, whose worship is correct, and whose life meets standards.  I believe that it is a far greater sin to withhold love from God's children than it is to hold a wrong view of worship, spiritual gifts, or even Biblical doctrine.  I believe "the basics" are much more simple that we've been led to believe.  God is.  Man sinned. Jesus took the penalty for our sins and by believing in Him we have life.  All those who believe that are accepted by God - who am I to reject them?  My command is to love them.  Love.  Not judge.  Not correct.  Not exclude.  Not set conditions for their acceptance.  Love.

Even if they dance in the aisles.

Even if they raise their hands and clap.

Even if they chant prayers written out a hundred years ago.

Even if they read paraphrases.

Even if they have sin in their lives that they have not dealt with.

Even if they "hear from the Lord".

Even if they baptize their babies.

My command is to love them, not separate myself from them.

When I was young, I was pulled from pretty much the only fellowship we had with any believers because there came into the fellowship some who were dancing in the aisles.  There were also some who were sharing that they thought God had told them something.

It was isolating - to the extreme.  It also occurred at a time in my life that I could have most used the emotional support and comfort of the body of Christ.  (We am not perfect - why do we demand it of others in order to worship with them?)

I read my Bible often in that isolating time.  I saw people dancing in worship.  Miriam.  David.  Even John the Baptist jumped for joy before he was born.  I read people hearing from God - often. It seems God even has a delight in talking with people.  I also read a commandment in one of my favorite books, ".... not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the day approaching..."

I choose to believe that fellowship with other believers is obedience to God - even imperfect believers with imperfect doctrine.  I am to be with them as the verse says, "... encouraging one another...".  EncourageThis is what God wants - encouraging one another - not judging one another.

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