Monday, April 19, 2010

A Perspective on Separation and Church Discipline

Lately I've been absorbed with writing and touching up my doctrinal statement in preparation for ordination. Thus, no blogging. While you might have been interested in some subjects, others, such as supralapsarianism, may have bored you just a touch.

I'm currently working through a section on church discipline and separation. I ran across the following perspective and I'm really curious to know your feedback. Is it good, but incomplete? Absolutely right? Wrong? You are welcome and encouraged to post any perspective that you have if you would kindly tell me Scripturally why you think that. That is, unless you don't want me using your name as my defense of your view when it comes to my ordination! :)

The Unity of the Church—Jesus wants his church to be unified (John 10:16; 17:21-23). This unity is possible because Jesus baptizes believers from vastly different backgrounds into the same body and the same Spirit (1 Cor 12:12-14). “Those who cause divisions” must be avoided (Rom 16:17). Those who practice separation where there should be unity should be confronted (Gal 2:11-14). Separation should be practiced in the case of an unbelieving false teacher (Gal 1:8-9; 2 John 9-11). If someone is living in sin and refuses to repent upon confrontation (Matt 18:15-17), he should be warned as a brother (2 Thess 3:6, 14-15). Persistent stubbornness in sin exposes him or her as an unbeliever (1 John 2:19). Based on this understanding of church discipline and purity, the church is never to separate from other believers.

Happy reviewing!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Christian Carnage

Ever since the days when flying projectiles were added to the standard battle armament of clubs and swords, "friendly fire" has been the unfortunate result. It's kind of hard to know where an arrow will fall or what hot lead will ultimately pierce (just ask Stonewall Jackson about this). Modern warfare has done much to reduce the number of "friendly fire" victims but it remains a terrible reality.

As much as "friendly fire" is hated on the battlefield it seems to be a quite cherished part of Christianity. We often seem eager to turn our clubs (blogs), swords (sermons), artillery (websites), and nuclear weapons (blacklisting) from the enemy around us against our brother next to us (like the allegory? :) ). We spend so much time and energy beating the daylights out of our own team that we have little fight left for the enemy. We slash those more "liberal" than us and jab at those more conservative. Why?

I'm not always sure why. Pride maybe, thinking that I have arrived at all the right conclusions and everyone else must be beat into thinking my way. Insecurity with what we believe or the reasons that we believe the way we do? Tradition and the refusal to look at something a different way? The love of change and refusing to consider that perhaps a certain tradition may be correct? A variety of explanations may explain this propensity, none of which are flattering.

I have learned a lot from my pastor in this regard and greatly respect his wisdom and maturity. He is comfortable with what he believes, is humbly continuing to learn and grow, knows who the Lord has called him to be, and spends his time on doing what the Lord has called him to do rather than blowing up anyone who disagrees. No matter our position or theological persuasion, maybe we would all do better to follow this example. Maybe we need to accept the fact that God has included a variety of people in His army. The army doesn't attack the navy just because they aren't doing the same job. Perhaps we should let God be the general and just focus on the task that He has given us to do. Learn from the other units, keep your focus on your task, and leave the rest up to the General.

No, I haven't been smoking some pipe left over from the 60's. I don't expect the church to all come to agreement on Calvinism, Bible translations, worship styles, and eschatological views all in this decade. We need to be well studied, and constantly studying. However, it should be possible to also think the best of others and unselfishly give ourselves for our fellow army buddies (I Cor 13). At the very least we must learn to rejoice wherever and however the gospel is proclaimed (Phil 1:18). Mark 9:38-40 addresses such a situation. John said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us."

Remember that the order "Ready, Aim, Fire" is important. "Ready, Fire, Aim" can cause a lot of unncessary carnage and pain.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

"Jesus wants everybody happy, happy, happy and He doesn't want anybody sad!"

These are lyrics from a common kids' jingle. Any thinking believer obviously would agree that there is more to Christianity than just being happy all the time. This Easter I've begun to wonder how much this sort of kid's theology has permeated mature Christianity. The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ are rightfully the climax of the year for believers, but how do we present it? How do we think about it? I wonder if we are so eager to get to the joy of the resurrection that we unwittingly mitigate the impact of the crucifixion.

The gospel of John is largely an account of Christ's last few weeks on earth. Chapters 13 through 19 climax towards the crucifixion while only 2 chapters cover the resurrection and the events following it. Maybe it would be better to sit for a while and let the full impact of the worst day in history to really sink in. Do we really understand the betrayal of a closest friend? The reversal of popular opinion in Jerusalem? The confusion and desperation of Pilate? What about the heart of Mary being shredded as she helplessly watched the inhuman treatment of her first son? The pounding regrets Peter felt as the last moments with his friend and leader were vehement exclamations of denial? The fear and bewilderment of disciples who expected to follow Christ to a kingdom, not a cross? And what about Christ? How deeply do we feel the utter abandonment He experienced from his friends, disciples, and even His Father? His silence at the rigged trial by his countrymen? The humiliation and pain experienced at the hands of calloused soldiers? Do we understand Him being hated for His perfection and being crucified for His love? Is it even possible to understand His concern for his mother's well being and for the soul of a thief while dangling in utter agony from a tree? This was the worst day in human history. The blackest. The end. Deicide. Those in bondage killing their only Savior. It was finished!

Then came Sunday!! The cry "It is finished" now screams hope and salvation rather than desperation.

I'm not arguing for a diminishing of the resurrection. It should be everything to us (1 Corinthians 15). However, it would do us well to spend some time absorbing the darkness of John 13-19 before basking in the light of John 20-21. I believe the incomprehensible miracle of the resurrection will appear more spectacular as we absorb the darkness that brought us there. The sun is always more radiant after a spell of rain. The flowers of spring are always more beautiful after a long, cold winter.