Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Inciting II: Rules, Regulations, and Love

Having been born, raised, educated, and employed in a "holiness movement" (that's Christian talk for holiness denomination) there is a great deal of discussion of "holiness" (obvious, right?).  It seems that- on a practical level- the use of "holiness" or "holy" refer to a strict adherence to the rules, regulations, and positional authority accountability. In the past and present there have been long lists of expectations and rules including (but not limited to): card playing, gambling, cinemas/movies, wearing shorts, women wearing pants, cutting of a woman's hair, tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and sexual "deviance" (usually highlighting "premarital" sex and homosexuality). 

Now, let's be clear on a few things up front: one, my use of quotation marks only denotes that this blog is a place for discussion and we want to use inclusive language so that anyone may engage; two,  my list of rules/expectations is not complete but only touches on a few of the iceberg tips. Instead of debating each one of those things spiritual and cultural merits instead I would like to take this section of our series and visit the underlying root words touted when discussing- what many would describe as- established or legalistic religion.

Holiness: Every Christian in the world agrees that God is holy and since Jesus is God then Jesus is holy and since we are called to be Christ-like then we should be holy... but given that equation "holy" still is undefined as an entity. Some would argue that it is intrinsic in our acceptance of Christ, others that something that God makes us through His grace, and still others that it is a certain standard (definable by denominational affiliation).  But what does the Bible have to say on the issue? If God is described as being holy and being love in very essence then we may draw a connecting line between those two words; further, if Jesus tell us that they [those far from God] will know that we are His disciples by our love for each other and that the greatest two commands are to love God and to love others... well, it seems that there is more than a cursory connection in holiness and love.

In fact, Christ claims that all the rest of the Law can be summed up in the law of love. We cannot miss this; love does not trump any law but summarizes it and makes it superfluous. Ask yourself this: if everyone acted in true love toward each other would there ever be need of another law or court? If we acted in love toward God in every action would there be any need of his Law?

The other part of all of this is, of course, the question of authority, submission, and "accountability"... which we will, mercifully, postpone until next time.

We would love- as always- to hear your feedback.


Cathy said...

"if everyone acted in true love toward each other would there ever be need of another law or court? If we acted in love toward God in every action would there be any need of his Law?"

That would take us back to the Garden, no? But we continue to misuse our Loving Father's words, as Adam and Eve did.

So the question cannot be "if everyone..." but instead: "if I..." since I cannot control anyone other than myself.

Now it gets complicated. If I am determined to act only out of love for God and man, in a world that does not have the same determination, what does love look like? Maybe you'll address that in the next installment of the conversation.

Bill Rose said...

The word we translate to 'holy' also means to be set apart to something or someone. This helps us understand to some degree the 'otherness' of God. But it also helps me understand how I am to be holy - I am to be set apart for God. I think that can run a lot of directions, but I don't run it toward legalism. We just end up Christianizing prariseeism and you know what Jesus said about them.

Anonymous said...

I think that it is time for a new "movement", the next step in the lineage of christian thought. I'm afraid that church thought has been awfully stagnant for about a hundred years or so. Just as the holiness movement grew up out of Methodism (the last truly great movement), and Methodism out of the Anglican tradition, and that from the Roman Catholic Church, etc. Stagnation is death. Apathy is death.

Why is there apathy and stagnation?

"All the kids have always known, that the Emperor has no clothes, but they bow down to him anyway, because it's better than being alone"

Here's my vision:

1. Separation of Church and Consumerism.

2. Re-centering the Church from being about avoiding sin without exception, to attempting to love without exception.

3. The Church abandoning any political platform.

4. The Church accepting and embracing its role in society, no longer as the authority on all things, no longer the assumed head of the table. Science, philosophy, and culture must be approached on their terms without self-righteousness.

Christian historical sources for this vision? Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Michel de Montaigne, Soren Kirkegaard, Thomas Aquinas, Albertus Magnus, Boethius, and Erasmus. Paul Tillich, Rob Bell, and Brian McClaren would probably also influence this movement (I am undecided as to how beneficial they would be).

I truly hope these things can be accomplished, but Lord knows it would be a painful struggle.