Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Thought for Tuesday 25 August 2015

“[My people] were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered.  My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill.  Yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.”  Ezekiel 34:5-6 NKJV

“Support without accountability promotes moral weakness, and accountability without support is a form of cruelty.”  (Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, ¶102, pg 53)

“Misplaced compassion” has been responsible for a great deal of the falling away from the Church of many who have been given tacit approval to lead ungodly lives, ostensibly (and ironically) in the name of “grace”.  Worse, those who have tried to hold others accountable have often been accused of being “judgmental” or even “legalistic”.  So because we are a people of compassion, and convincing ourselves we are doing the morally right thing to allow those we love (or are called to love) to spiritually hang themselves, we have allowed too many to walk away from the Church with hardly a word.  We’ve even offered a stamp of approval of sorts by offering our “understanding” when they list their reasons for walking away from the congregation. 

To be clear, I have not only used just about every known excuse for not being a part of the congregation, I probably developed a few of my own!  To be equally clear, however, it was not until someone cared enough to confront me that I began to understand what being part of a congregation is really about.  This particular gentleman was truly gentle with me, but he was firm in his conviction and his willingness to walk with me.  He was willing to risk a friendship for the sake of my soul.  It took a little time to sink in, of course.  My pride was not going down without a fight!  In the end, however, and probably with a little help from the Holy Spirit and certainly my wife, I was better able to understand what being a part of the Body of Christ is about.  There is much more to it than calling oneself a Christian or claiming to have been “saved”.

The Discipline of the United Methodist Church has it right.  When we help to solidify the less-than-moral and unholy choices our friends and family members often make, we have a hand in not only weakening the whole Church, we also “promote moral weakness” in the individuals we refuse to confront.  We much prefer to be “popular” than to be “faithful”.  In such vanity, however, we compromise our own integrity.

It is not easy to stand firm in the faith, and there can be no doubt doing so will cost us in some way.  “Speaking the Truth in love” is no easy task especially in the culture we have helped to create for ourselves.  Yet “concerning the times and the seasons, you have no need that I should write to you.  For you know perfectly that the Day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.  For when they say, ‘Peace and Safety!’, sudden destruction comes upon them as labor pains upon a pregnant woman.  And they shall not escape.”  1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

Nor will we escape who allowed them to “become food for the beasts of the field when they were scattered”, we who failed to bother to “seek or search for them”.  Maybe we assured ourselves that “at least they’re saved” – missing entirely the whole point of what it means to be a part of something, uniquely a part of the Congregation of The Lord.  To be sure, there is only so much we can do because in the end adults have to make up their own minds.  Children, on the other hand (and particular those “infants in the faith”), not so much.  We owe them.  We will not hesitate to see to their secular education and we will move mountains to help some find funding for college, but we deliberately deny them a religious education.  Why is that?

Are we – or have we become – so ashamed of our faith, our religion, our God, that we would prefer to just remain silent while the “beasts of the field” get fat on those we neglect?  Or have we been so equally neglected that we are not equipped to help others?  Either way, we cannot deny that being justified before The Lord has nothing to do with being given a free pass to Heaven.  There is much more to our being than simply waiting on an “afterlife”.  Surely our God is big enough that He can and does and will equip us to enjoy the life we’ve been given?  Not to our destruction, of course, but to be a part of something that gives true meaning to our existence than a shiny new car or new shoes.

“Love” is a big word that is wholly about what we are willing to risk for the sake of another’s well-being – as Jesus did.  And we have to do better – NOT for the sake of a church’s budget, but for the sake of the soul.  In this life and in the life to come, there is so much to look forward to; but we have to claim it and teach others.  That is the strength of the Church; and while the risks are great, we are assured the Rewards are greater: “For Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).


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