(Every night I have to ask, "How can it be so incredibly late so very early?!" I hate clocks and how they just keep running. Oh well.)
First, I don't know how many times this has happened to me. I reject folk wisdom over and over only to find after a careful, years long inquiry into the issue, that the folk were right. They usually are.
The recommendation that a man should bloom where he's planted is as old as the hills. I realize it is somewhat dense for me only now to be catching up to it's wisdom. Still, I am beginning to see why it's so right. And this part has happened to me countless times too. I can usually profit a little beyond the folk wisdom because I forced myself to find out why it was wise. We'll hope I have not just wasted twenty good years figuring this stuff out.
Second, I think I see why doctrine creates such division amongst Christians.
We need doctrine. We ALL need doctrine, and there is only one true doctrine, but none of us has it. We just have our view of the facts, and our best guess of what God is like. That alone makes it obvious why doctrine must create divisions. But there's more.
I'm going through the exercise of writing a book on the basics of being a Christian. I'm targeting something in the 70 page range and describing what one does to become a Christian and to "do" being a Christian the right way. It was inspired by the way my tennis game improved when (after 30 years) I was taught the right way to hit each shot. Learning the right way to strike the ball made everything else to work, so I'm trying to teach the right way to strike the iron in life.
As I approached the end of the first draft, it dawned on me that nowhere in the book is it obvious what my doctrines are. I could not tell from my own book what I believe about anything outside of the rawest salvation, and I think I know why. All of us, every true Christian, basically believes the same things about what we can do for God. We only argue about what God can do for us, and what we have to do to free Him to do those things for us. Since I'm writing about what we do, I've never needed to open a single controversy.
We only fight about what God can do for us.
Predestination versus Free Will?
- Can God save us apart from our decision?
- Will God pull us out of the fire at the end of everything, or will He help us endure it?
- Does God infuse us with grace through physical actions, or by invisible spiritual acts?
- Is it important for God to have 3 personalities to reach out and save us?
- Can God work in the world when the church is so buried in fithly lucre?
Caring for the poor?
- We all agree we should do this.
In fact, we all agree about almost everything we should do as Christians. We should pray. We should care for the saints. We should avoid the evil that's in the world. We should reach out to the people oppressed by that very evil and give them the Truth of Jesus' work.
And that's why going to the closest church is so important. We agree with those people about what we should be doing. We only struggle with them over what God is doing for us. Why let our confusions separate us? We should open our hearts and lives to them as freely as to someone who agrees with us.
Bringing me to the third thing, we are a geographical species.
My son noted something the other day. He was in the break room with six other people, and they were all talking ... but not one of them was talking to anyone in the room.
We live a cellular life these days. We are completely separating ourselves from our geographical "place." But we are a geographical species. We naturally connect with where we are, and with the people we expect to see in our places. To do most of our connecting with a TV screen, a cell phone, and a computer monitor is neither natural nor healthy, and yet we are almost there. How many people are fighting for the privilege of telecommuting these days? When work contact is gone, what's left? And when we add the windshields of our cars to the church equation and drive there 3 times a week, we are only shooting ourselves in our God-given, natural, geographical feet.
We were built to connect with the living people around us. Life is connection, and connection happens best across a table or a fence, not a down modem line or up a cellular tower.
The church has the fantastic opportunity to be the last thing in America that NEEDS eyeball to eyeball, handshake to handshake, living connection. We can become the single American place people go when they want to remember what it's like to touch someone and be loved - well that and singles bars, I guess. But we cannot give this to ourselves, much less to anyone else, when we all drive 20 minutes for the chance.
Fourth, I thought about the phrase, "boots on the ground."
That's such a pregnant sentence. God has chosen to fight His war against this Earthly insurgency with precious few boots on the ground. Each of us needs to love to maximum efficiency. We need to give ourselves every opportunity to strike a hug for the cause. And where can we have more effect than in a church where we're a little different? Where can we have more effect than amongst our own neighbors? Where can we have more effect than face to face with people whose hearts are silently calling out for real connection with people who'll really care?
I know none of this makes much sense, and I've hardly made a cogent case here. I just cannot seem to find the time to post, so it's either spray out these random thoughts or burst from keeping them inside for weeks. I cannot think of a time I've been more excited about the real possibilities standing open before the church. I cannot think of a time I've felt more like an idea might really be possible, doable, and even going to happen in some degree.
I've spent years wrestling with myself over how to fight the church and build it at the same time. Even as I started this series it was with fighting the church in mind. I wanted to fight the evil paper that was choking the church, but somehow that's just not right. It's like when us soldiers would talk about the Geneva convention. You were not allowed to shoot a 50 caliber machine gun at people, it was too big for the rules, but you could shoot it at the equipment they happened to be carrying. Shooting at the paperwork in the church might meet the letter of the law, but it's still not right, and I've known it all along.
As my mind is gnawing on this whole concept, an odd thing is happening. I am coming to consider the paperwork in the church to be an exact manifestation of the sin of the Nicolaitans in the Revelation. Therefore, it is a manifestation of a common sin within the church, and therefore it should be pitied and healed rather than assaulted. Rather than waging war against paper, I need to do exactly what I'd do in any other case of sin: exhort, encourage, rebuke, and most of all, love and forgive.
I'm not sure I'm ready for all this growth.
Ain't life grand. :-)