Monday, November 22, 2010

Sins You Don't Get In Trouble For

There I stood, only days into my job, listening to a long-time member of the church tell me how the person who had hired had so wildly mishandled a sensitive issue in the church. Names being thrown around as if we had been present for years and all of the history that they were relaying. So I responded, "Have you talked to Pastor such-and-thus?"

"Oh, NO. They don't listen to anyone." The member responded.

"Has anyone spoken to them?" I pressed further.

"Well... no. But he/she knows how we feel."

How many times is this scenario been repeated in "christian" and "church" culture? Too many to count, too depressing to think about it- this is the daily stuff of church life that eats and tears at our members until we are facing what we face now: an American culture fleeing church and established religious institutions to save their souls. We can call them wrong, try and guilt them back into attendance, and make up wild spiritual accusations about how they've "fallen off the vine" are no longer "in community" but the reality is our acidic culture has driven many into house churches more "organic" and "natural" communities and- to be quite honest- it is hard to fault them. If we were REALLY honest... maybe we are jealous, jealous that they got to leave and we are still here and long-suffering.

From my keyboard I can look to the future and see the already angry responses to this, those taking exception, those who don't want to think of it... or those who never respond but just think about how wrong I am. Which brings me to my real point- which isn't church burn-out- but gossip and dissension.

Two sins that are over-looked, turned a blind eye to, and even couched as "spiritual", "shared prayer requests", or "concerns". It's called sin. It is listed out in Romans 1 next to every hard-line conservative's favorite verse that "condemns" homosexuality. But it's okay because we only condemn those who sin differently than we do (credit to Tom Clegg there).

We have torn down our brothers and sisters in Christ, within our homes, within our small groups, and within the structure we so mistakenly call "church". We have lied, exaggerated, involved those who ought not be, shared private information, told of conjectures, and defamed character based on personal thoughts and experiences. We. Not you. Me too.

I am not here to cast stones. I am here to confess and to invite you- if you will- to do so with me. That the Pharisees have judged the younger brothers, the rebels the Pharisees, the weaker brothers judged older, the older judged the younger, and we were all wrong. From the top down, from denominations, to districts, to groups, to local churches, to committees, and personal relationships the sins of gossip and dissension have torn us apart. For my part, I am sorry, I want to live at peace, to build community, to build hope, to live in love.

So, if you must, continue as you were. But what I saw yesterday, in the midst of students, families, friends, and a community I do know this: NOTHING will happen until you stop, confess, repent, and reconcile.

Truly, I want this to be a dialogue. If we need to meet up, if you need to email me, if you need to comment on this then do it. This has gone on too long.


Cathy said...

Why do we attack our allies in the most horrific battle in the universe? We (I) don't believe that the war is real. I'm not desperate enough for Jesus. I give myself an exemption, permission to sin, because I don't see what's at stake. I want to get over this!

Cathy said...

Why do we attack our allies in the most horrific battle in the universe? We (I) don't believe that the war is real. I'm not desperate enough for Jesus. I give myself an exemption, permission to sin, because I don't see what's at stake. I want to get over this!

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that you've started this as a forum for people to discuss issues rather than just express your opinion.

I totally agree with each christian continually striving to be as humble, even-handed, and loving as possible. If that was the focus of our sermons and theology I think the church would be much better off.

I also agree that christians need to completely stop judging and condemning, correcting and rebuking non-christians. That I believe is also at the root of many people's distrust of our faith.

But what about those within the church, specifically those in leadership? Do you really expect the average member of the church to express dissatisfaction with someone in a position of power?

I am all for placing love at the center of our interactions, but if the church is (or individual christians are) acting in a way that undermines itself or is unjust, I think there is a responsibility to make sure the "temple is clean".

I think we should express outrage only within our ranks, and only in matters of grave hypocrisy. We should give non-believers a loving example of a life alternate to sin, but refrain from pointing out all their flaws and failures.


Devin The PoetWarrior said...

Great points. The example I gave did involve a pastor and I understand that approaching those in power is very intimidating however, that is not where all gossip and dissension are located. It is even possible to disagree with the powers that be if they first engage in humility and emphasize the "priesthood of all believers"- that no one of us is higher or better but all are part of the Body and Bride of Christ.

Further, the real call here is to universal repentance and confession of broken relationships, gossip, slander, and unforgiveness. Only by first confessing our sins are we made righteous in love (not in deeds).

As far as abstaining from condemning non-believers I could not agree more. When Paul writes of "abominations" within his letters he is directing those at incidents with the community of believers not the culture in general. Those who are far from God have not enlisted as we have and are not to be held to our standards. We are told that our identifying mark will be our "love for one another" not "the way we tell the world how they are wrong" (Fred Phelps should take note).

Love the discussion.