I am determined to not fall behind this week. As always, for a comprehensive summary of Chapter Four, see Stefanie’s post at Ni Hao Y’all. This chapter, “The Church Is Responsible For So Much Injustice” once again charges me to dig deep.
I can start with the beginning statements. Keller tells the story of Mark Lilla, a professor at the University of Chicago who wrote about his experience walking away from the church. A move to a new area that had a reputation for “spiritual vitality” didn’t go so well for Lilla. His findings with the church and community there were similar to some I’ve experienced.
“The community was authoritarian and hierarchical, and the members were ‘dogmatic…eager to bring me in doctrinally.'”
I could say the exact same thing about certain experiances. However, even when I thought others were trying to use the Bible to control others’ lives, I never considered that it’s teachings were wrong. Unlike Lilla, it made me consider that there might be something that I should say to a Bible thumper and to carefully consider how I choose to be obedient and how I choose to influence others. I don’t want to let others hide the truth from me just because of the way they convey it. Keller says that there are people who take an intellectual stand against the Bible “do so against a background of personal disappointment with Christians and churches.” I’ve known people like this, people close to me. I agree with Keller’s arguments that their beef is really with other Christians trying to exercise power over them. For the one person I’m thinking of, being with self righteous people on Sunday mornings and seeing their failings during the week while hearing their voices telling you all your a doing wrong is just too much. It seems both parties are focused on what the other is doing instead of what God is telling us to do. How many times during a day do I say, “Bria, worry about Bria. You can’t do it for your sister.” or “Girls, if you choose the right thing maybe your brother/sister will do it too.”
I like Keller’s quote about “the church is a hospital for sinners not a museum for saints.” I’ve heard this sentiment in many ways over the years. It’s hard to remember sometimes that church leadership are also humans. We are all struggling, some wounds are easier to see than others.
Under the “Fanaticism” umbrella, I was interested in Keller’s description of pharisaical behavior. I hope that my behavior can be a light for Jesus. How do we stand firm to what we believe without appearing intolerant or self-righteous? There are things that I will not tolerate. This is a hard line that I would like to explore more for myself. There are lines that I draw for me in the sand, and for that matter for my family. One overly simplified example would be in the Xbox games that we choose to allow or not allow. According to Arleigh all of her friends are playing (insert whatever game rated MA of your choice is here) and she knows better than to grab a gun and mow down the people in the street. We tell her that the violence in those games desensitizes her to all sorts of violence. We will not allow it in our house. We don’t want her playing those games at her friends’ houses either. It is a moral code for our family. Another parent who hears this may think I’m judging them. How do I stand my ground without coming across as self-righteous? Can I? Of course this is applied to 1,000 other situations. How do you really hate the sin and love the sinner? I think the best answer is to follow the example Jesus gives us as best we can. We can lovingly stand our ground. If that makes me a fanatic, so be it. This is one of those situations that I would LOVE to hear comment and discussion on…pretty please. Obviously, I appreciate Keller’s sentiment that the antidote for Christians is not to “tone down and moderate their faith, but rather grasp a fuller and truer faith in Christ.”
I love that Keller points to the Bible for examples of the failings of the church. He says that we can expect it, but the Bible gives us the answers in how to deal with it. Our Christian history does give us wonderful examples of self correction that I think we all too often ignore. I love that Keller points out that our answers are not to simply to abandon our faith because things don’t happen they way they are supposed to, but to look to the Bible as an example of what we should do and make the change.
On to Stefanie’s question this week.
Question: What does your church look like? A hospital for the sick? Or a museum for the saints? What do you imagine a church that is truly pleasing to Jesus would look like?
I don’t even know how to start to answer this question. We’ve been part of so many churches and recently had to find a new one. My current church, I hope it looks more like a hospital for the sick. Years ago, I used that analogy all the time. Sadly, I think I used it as an excuse for people’s poor behavior. After reading Stefanie’s answer, I gained a different perspective. I think when considering this analogy, I was seeing church as only a place to be filled up and medicated, not a place to reach out and help medicate others. Then as I consider this, I realize that I was thinking only of our worship services and CHURCH is so much more than that. I know that. Why is it I was being closed minded and thinking only when we meet at worship times?
Right now the church, my church is a hospital for the sick. It feeds the poor and reaches out to them in love. It visits other islands and helps schools. It reaches out. The question is, am I fully participating in that church?
For other answers check out the links Ni Hao Y’all by clicking the button.