G'ampa C's Blog

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Fellowship of the Saints

I had supper and some relaxation time last night with some friends - Christian friends.
It's amazing that something so simple can be so valuable. Over the past several years, I have come to know and love about 50 people really deeply through Life team and a mission team. What a diverse mix of folks. There is a sense in me that something special happens when I see those people, and I will usually try to give them a hug when I see them. It's somehow just wrong not to. That bond is really hard to describe, knowing they would do practically anything for me and I for them, that we pray for each other, that we want to know what's up. Like family but different. The more I think of it, the more I'm convinced that we are meant to be this way with people by God's design. The problem is that it's not easy to get there. We have passed through some fires together; illness, jobs, finances, fears, losses, sins, depression, you name it. We have also shared some wonderful times; meals, worship, communion, games, picnics, sharing of fun. It takes time and effort. There have been times when one or more of us really struggles and the rest of us pray and wait. I have watched some of the group leave Abilene for jobs or mission work, and I miss them. Somehow the mix and match of struggles, fun, prayer, meals, and communion has grown us together.
Is this what life should really be like, learning to love each other?
Maybe so. After spending a lot of my life with a thick skin that protected me from getting close or letting anyone else get close, I am slowly learning to shed the skin and love. (All kinds of cheap metaphors come to mind here, but I'll refrain.) I just know it's better to love people like this than NOT to love people like this. I wonder if this is what Jesus had in mind when he prayed for us to be ONE? Hmmm. I tell my children that dating is practice for marriage. I guess fellowship with the Saints is practice for heaven?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Church and a Sinful Lifestyle

This post arises as a result of reading Preachermike's site, in which a person responded with some questions about the apparent acceptance (by the church) of people who were unfaithful, then divorced their mates, and remarried.

The few responses you received probably arise as a part of our church "culture". We do not like to deal with divorce AFTER the fact, because it cuts so many ways. I feel "tugged at" to respond because I can see you are struggling. Please understand that I am not a scholar. My approach to scripture is simple at best, but here goes:

The church, in general, has grown away from confession of our sins to each other. Not, of course, in every case, but in general. The call to confession of our sins to each other so we can pray and be healed is clear. Confession of our sins is hard, it is humbling, and it opens us up to assault by those who should love us the most. In an effort to NOT be seen as judgemental, we have also stepped back from the issues. We have become, to some extent, like the church at Corinth (I Cor 5). Paul says they should expel the brother who had his father's wife. They were apparently complacent or even accepting of the situation. This was a sexual "lifestyle" sin, much like the adultery you spoke of in your comment post.
If the church accepted the validity and reality of confrontation and confession, your relative would have to have been openly rebellious to the church when confronted with the sin of adultery. The mechanism for bringing repentance (shepherding followed by more shepherding then maybe severing of fellowship) would have been brought forward. Instead, we are too concerned with the pain of the log in our own eyes to bring up someone else's problems. None of us is perfect, so what right do I have to be judgemental?
It's simple, but it's not, and it's not easy. If we LOVE, truly LOVE like we should, we will risk some anger and consternation to bring those we love away from going over the cliff. Deep down, we should know that any sinful lifestyle by a professing Christian ( I Cor. 5:11 - sexually immoral, greedy, idolator, slanderer, drunkard, swindler; and others from Rev. 21:8) is a departure from the grace which saves us.
When Jesus talks about divorce and adultery, (Matt. 19:1-12) he says a man (or probably woman) who divorces except for unfaithfulness, and remarries, commits adultery. If your relative became convicted of the sin of adultery and promise-breaking, it seems the place to begin is repentance and apology, since it is unlikely that the broken relationship will be restored now. Depending on her faith, celibacy may then be the best answer. Continuing to live in the relationship seems to be like continuing a life of drunkenness or swindling after repentance. This part is really hard, but Jesus then said some choose to renounce marriage for the kingdom. Sometimes he requires everything we have, when that "everything" comes between us and him.
The goal of any action taken by the church or Christian toward someone who is living a lifestyle of sin should be the eternal salvation of that person. We have difficulty taking any action, though. Sometimes, I am afraid that "speaking the truth in love" has become "ignoring your problem, without love". I believe the Lord views someone who is struggling with a sin differently than someone who is comfortable in it.
I also believe that whatever we are drawn to that is immoral, whether it is adultery, pornography, homosexuality, greed, theft, worldliness, even refusal to forgive, etc., can become for us a lifestyle of sin. Living that lifestyle every day separates us from the grace of God, and the best way to deal with it is compassionate confrontation, confession, repentance and forgiveness. We are not designed to do it on our own, but I think many of us, especially those of us struggling with lifestyle sins, find ourselves all alone in a church building full of Christians. I confess to you that I struggle with worldliness almost every day, so I don't have a corner on the eye-speck removal market.
So...having found no "official stance" on your subject, I hope you at least feel like someone was concerned enough to really respond to you. That is what we are all called to do. Jesus calls us to love, help and forgive.
Peace to you and yours.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Narrow Path

I had a conversation last night with dear friends who asked the question:
"How do I really know I'm on the narrow path? If, like Jesus said, few find it, how do I really know?"
All kind of things rushed through my mind...junk mail answers to a difficult question.
After some discussion which was likely inadequate, I finally told them I believed it is a heart issue. In other words, maybe I can define the path I'm on based on my motives.
Why do I pay taxes based on the legal amount I should pay? (or, not)
Why do I worship? (or not)
Why do I treat others the way I do?
Why do I give money to someone begging for help? (or why don't I?)

If God has my heart, I will want to please him. I won't always be successful, and sometimes I fall flat on my face. In my past, I am sure that pleasing God was not a possibility to even be considered. You can't EVER do enough to make up for what you do wrong. But what I know now by faith is that God does not expect me to be sinless; He wants my heart. The phrase "for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" comes to mind. How does that play out from day to day, and how do I know. (Or, in movie-speak, how will I know the dark side?)
Maybe the best barometer I have on where my path is headed is how I treat others. Love the Lord with everything you have....and love your neighbor as yourself. I sometimes have difficulty relating to how much I love the Lord, but deep down I know what my treatment of others tells me. Am I rude? Patient? Angry? Supportive? Selfish? Compassionate?
How do I respond to rude people? Inept people? Clumsy people? Needy people? Cantankerous old geezers? Evil people? Arrogant people? Selfish people?
Maybe by realizing Jesus concentrated on the people, not the adjectives.

We are on a journey toward the place our hearts want to call home. Sometimes we forget to look where we are going and get off track. I think the grace of God covers that. When our hearts bring us back to focus on the Lord, we are headed up the right path. Maybe it is less the activities along a path than the direction of travel that tell me where my destination lies.
Thank God for his mercy and grace, that he does not treat me as my sins deserve.