Thursday, September 28, 2017

Complex part 5: Passion

The word passion often has a negative connotation attached to it in the church. Unless it is Easter time, then we attach the word to Christ. So why in the world do we freely accept the concept in this singular context without question? Yet categorically condemn it in every other context, also without question. Granted, many so-called "normal" passions that we gravitate to the most can have many consequences. That in itself does not mean that we can't be passionate about positive and constructive things. Although many are assuming, righteousness is the same as being dispassionate.

I contend that the reason for the decline of numbers in the church is the result of a lack of passion. How do we honestly expect people to live with purpose and commit to the work of the church without sincere passion? If we assume all passions are bad, then we end up killing our own heart in an attempt to be holy. That is definitely not what Jesus meant by denying self. (Matthew 12:35, 22:37) Not only that, when we end up applying this all or nothing notion about passion, it will fall on the "fruits of the spirit" as well. Which will make us guilty of quenching the spirit. (1 Thessalonians 5:19) So all our efforts will end up being puny and powerless, since they are only done legalistically, and not with sincere passion from the heart.

We need to move past such simplistic notions about passions, and seek the more complex notion of discerning the difference between passions of the flesh, and passions of the spirit. (Galatians 5) Otherwise, the church will continue to die a slow stoic death.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. - Colossians 3:23-24

The Visual PARABLEist

A person trying to drive a very large nail with a tiny hammer
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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Complexity part 4: Diversity

The word diversity has become a rather common buzz word in the world. So much so that church people have become rather suspicious of it, even with the parts we have no moral problem with. Despite that it plays a vital part in Christian theology. (1st Corinthians 12) A complex part that the church has failed miserably at I dare say. Allowing the world to uplift their redefined concept in a seemingly positive way, and attaching it to themselves as a badge of honor. As well as give them a reason to accuse the church. Which has only caused the church to neglect true Christian diversity even more, only to embrace the misguided notion of normal that we talked about last time. This has been detrimental to the church universal.

When faced with the word diversity, we need to remind ourselves that worldly diversity and Christian diversity are completely different concepts altogether. Worldly diversity is about race, culture, and sexuality. Where Christian diversity applies to, talent, skill, and ability. Worldly diversity is supposed to be about equality, but in practice is only applied to those who think, feel, and believe a certain way. Where Christian diversity is meant to be about the common good, helping one another, and establishing your unique place within the community of church. Allowing all our best qualities to work together, so we as a group can be truly Christ like in a way that we can't as an individual. Yet, in practice the church doesn't do any better than the world does in living up to their definition.

True church diversity cannot happen if we as individuals have no sense of whom God made us to be. We will never discover that if we are following a one size fits all legalistic theology, or if we choose to be content with a simple whitewashed faith, instead of deal with the complexities of the brokenness in our heart. See my post titled talentless for more on this.

With all that being said, let me remind you of a very vital truth about diversity. Humanity does not naturally gravitate to it. Most people prefer the more comfortable but inefficient uniformity. Mainly because many of us feel threatened by people who think, feel, and do things differently than we do. Even down to innocuous subjects, and trivial details. I've seen people lecture others on how to eat an ice cream cone. I’ve seen people debate which ingredient should go first when making a root beer float. I've seen people fight over the proper way to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as if their happiness depended on winning that argument. So it is no wonder that humanity is so terribly divided on important issues. Such attitudes reveal the core of whom we are as humans. A core that we should seek to overcome, but do we want to? Even those who uplift diversity as a virtue will become rather hostile towards those who define and apply it differently than they do, since nobody is applying diversity and equality to schools of thought.

Even beyond issues of mere preference, the church is making a big push on evangelism out of necessity right now. So much so that if that is not where your gifting lies, you are made to feel guilty for it. That necessity doesn't stem from just a lack of outreach in years past, but because of the many parts of the body that we have neglected, alienating a large group of people who have those gifts. The more the church fails at unity in diversity; the more desirable worldly diversity appears. We as a church should not be letting this happen, but clearly we are. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

The Visual PARABLEist

Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. -1 Corinthians 12:13 nlt

many bodies becoming one
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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Complexity part 3: Normal?

Awhile back I was looking through reviews of CCM albums. I came across one where the reviewer criticized a song called Anti-conformity. It seemed rather evident that this person saw holiness and righteousness as normal, and that Christianity is merely a matter of conforming to normal. A rather common, yet completely inaccurate and superficial perception about Christianity. 

Holiness is anything but normal. The word holy literally means "set apart" so obviously true righteousness is more about growing beyond normal, yet, sinful human instincts and tendencies. Even the secular world knows this on some level. Even they are trying to rationalize their sinful behaviors under the term of "normal." But, just because something is "normal" does not make it right or holy by default. So much pain, suffering, and abuse has been brought into the world in the name of "normal." Often "normal" is just an excuse to conform to the masses, indulge the evil in our hearts, be selfish, and treat people as irrelevant. If Christianity was really about normal, we wouldn't need a religion or doctrine centered around it, because everyone would be doing it already, and find it rather easy. Clearly that is not the case.

While words like normal, conformity, and rebellion, may have certain stigmas attached to them. Relying on such broad notions is really over simplifying complex truths. Since even so-called rebellious people seldom rebel in original and isolated ways. They are typically part of a larger movement of people all rebelling in the same way collectively. In other words, conforming to one another in an attempt to create a counter culture where they can find acceptance outside the mainstream. Like most counter-cultures, if they become popular, they will eventually become passé over time. Just as holiness, is a choice to rebel against worldliness and wickedness. So it's not merely a matter of if we are rebelling or conforming or not, since we are all doing both in some fashion. It's a matter of what we are choosing to conform to, and what we choose to rebel against. Weather that is a misguided notion of normal, or striving for better than that.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. -Romans 12:2

a unique person wanting to join the normal bandwagon.
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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Complexity part 2: Legalism

It truly is a complex world with complex problems. Yet, many people don't want to face that complexity and make efforts to keep their beliefs simple and comfortable. One of the ways we do that is through legalism. It is a simple cause and effect theology after all. Perform X task, get Y result. Don't perform action A, you don't get consequence B. The why never really comes into it ever.

The problem with that is that legalism looks only at surface behavior, and ignores where our heart is at. Which makes it rather easy to fake. The Pharisees were prime examples of a heartless legalistic approach, yet Jesus told them it wasn't enough. (Matt 15:1-10) Christ tried to tell everyone that the root of our behavior is the heart, so that is what needs to be addressed to truly change our actions in a real and steadfast way. (Mark 7:20-23) Yet thousands of years later people still struggle to draw the line between surface legalism and sincere actions from the heart.

It just seems to be human nature to desire such simplistic answers to complex issues. Even the secular religion of political correctness is very legalistic in its approach when you get down to it. It is about living by a definition, about using the right terminology. It doesn't seem to matter what your intent is, or if you actually mean it. Just as long as you are using the right pre-determined words, and stay away from the established taboo words.

For example, say the problem was a drippy sewer pipe. A legalist sees the symptom and mops up the mess to make everything look clean, because that is the pre-determined way to deal with spills. Yet, they fail to look into the source of the leak. So the problem always returns, so they spend their lives mopping up the same mess. Where a true disciple seeks out and fixes the pipe that is responsible for the leak. It's a more complex solution, which takes effort to hunt down the source, special tools, and training in how to use them. It also requires more time to implement than a mere mop up. Plus, repair jobs are often messy in and of themselves, and make the mess worse before it gets better. However, the result lasts much longer. But, we are not really talking about leaky pipes, we are talking about the brokenness in our heart, and it is indeed a complex thing.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. -Ecclesiastes 3:11

What we must always remember is that holiness is the goal, and not the means of obtaining that goal. It's been said that if you try to be righteous by simple acting righteous, then every impure thought imaginable will go through your head. Which is true, Paul indicated so in Romans 7:5. It's why we need the council of fellow believers who have actually dealt with the issues of the heart to help us, not legalistic white washers who only know how to teach us to fake it. This is a method that requires transparency, which is a scary prospect that makes legalism more desirable to many. It also requires the council of the Holy Spirit, which is another complex issue which legalists ignore. Which we will address later.

a person painting over his blue heart
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