August 17, 2004

"Did I disappoint you...

...or leave a bad taste in your mouth?"

The latest in an extended rant on church unity, playing off the lyrics of U2's song "One." Links to previous posts can be found at the end of this one.

This summer I'm preaching through the Sermon on the Mount in our church. Last Sunday found us doing some "corporate thinking" about this familiar passage:
You're familiar with the command to the ancients, "Do not murder." I'm telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother "idiot!" and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell "stupid!" at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.

This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immdeiately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.

Or say you're out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don't lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you're likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. If that happens, you won't get out without a stiff fine (Matthew 5:21-26, The Message.)
How many times do you suppose that text was read last Sunday? How many Sunday School teachers and small group leaders taught from it? How many preachers crafted sermons around it? How many worship leaders added a reading of it to their worship sets? How many officiants read it as part of the liturgy? Statistically speaking, thousands of Christian leaders must have shared those ancient words to hundreds of thousands of Christians and seekers last Sunday alone. Thousands of us, wearing the prophet's mantle, speaking with the voice of authority, teaching the Church to seek reconciliation and prioritize relational harmony.

I'm almost sickened by the hypocrisy of it all.

How can we preach against slander when so many of us regularly talk down other churches, denominations, and expressions of the Faith? How can we preach against ungodly anger when we've allowed animosity to grow between one branch of our denomination and another? How can we teach them that reconciliation is their highest religious duty when, in spite of the fragmented state of Christendom, it's "business as usual" in most of our churches? How can we counsel them not to delay in making things right with their adversaries when we've allowed the Church to remain shattered for centuries? How can we convince them of their responsibility to make things right with those who've wronged them when we don't take seriously our own responsibility to work for relational harmony within Christ's Church?

Lord, when you find me standing in the pulpit telling Your people, "Do as I say, not as I do," please have mercy. I know how much you hate hypocrisy.

Click below for the previous posts in this series:

"Is it getting better..."
"Will it make it easier on you..."
"You say 'One love, one life...'"
"One love, we get to share it..."


At 8:36 AM, Blogger Chera said...

I came across this during my reading today, and it made me think of this post. "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:18

1 John 2:9-11 correlates with Matt 5:21-24 too.

At 9:01 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

Oh yeah, Chera...1 John really resonates with the idea of tangible, observable love that should characterize our relationships within the great family of God. I'm sure we'll spend some time there before this series is over. =)

BTW, where is UD? Is your server having problems again? Maybe you should lay hands on it or anoint it with oil or something...

At 10:10 AM, Blogger Chera said...

We're very unhappy with our server :P It's been really goofy this summer. The account is in Laura's name, so as soon as the server's back up (since it's also her e-mail server) we're transferring to a different hosting service. We were going to transfer it this past weekend, but just before Laura could the server went down again. It's frustrating because I think this'll be our fourth or fifth move over the past 3 years we've had UD.

I was wondering if you'd get to 1 John in your series :) There was also something from one of the Peters that reminded me of your series (Danielle's and my readings are currently James through Jude). I'll have to look to see if I can find it, I know I want to go back and read 2 Peter more thoroughly. When I read it yesterday it seemed very different from when I read it for New Testament last semester. John and Peter both remind me a lot of what Jesus taught on the Sermon on the Mount (and the rest of his teachings), which of course would make sense since they were there, heh. I guess it shows that they listened, huh?

At 8:00 AM, Blogger Nathan said...

Daniel -

I think you're spot on with your observations. As a church-general we are not at all upset by the division of church-particulars, and yet focus on unity within our families, friends and our own congregations as being an integral part of the faith. My church has been going through 1 Cor 13, and I think verses 4-7 apply especially to inter-church conflict. How can we teach people that God wants us to "bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things" if we are not willing to put that into practice precisely where it may matter the most? But what do you think the solution is? I don't think we'll ever get perfect unity this side of heaven, but we have to be able to make some progress - how do you think we should do that? What are the first steps we should take?

At 9:09 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

What great points, Nathan. First Corinthians 13:4-7 reads like an indictment of the modern denominational church. My next post (a variation on the theme, "You act like you never had love and you want me to go without") will be a synthesis of some of your ideas with Chera's. I think our acceptance of the fragmented state of the Church grows out of (or is fed by) our misunderstanding of the true nature of love. More to come on this...

As far as a solution goes...I don't know, I'm making this up as I go. =) I will say this, though: While I agree that "perfect" unity can only be experienced in paradise, we must be able to do better than we are now.

At 12:14 PM, Blogger Nathan said...

I'm looking forward to your next post. I think most people pay a lot of lip service to unity, but aren't willing to really try to find workable solutions. Personally, my stance is that theory & pie-in-the-sky thinking is great but utterly worthless if there isn't some way to start moving things in that direction.

At 5:37 AM, Blogger hamo said...

HI Daniel - look forward to reading more of your thoghts. We are about to start with the sermon on the mount tomorrow night too.


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