We looked in the last post of some of the reasons that churches across the doctrinal spectrum have been slow or reluctant to help the 1 in 4 women of faith in their congregation who are in destructive relationships.
Churches derive their power from their claim that they represent Christ’s message on earth.
Their history is one of organizing and transmitting the legacy of Jesus Christ in the world.
Jesus is presented as the Savior, the One Who, once followed, takes our heavy burdens upon Himself and provides a never-ending source of support, love and forgiveness.
Indeed, the claim is that once people accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, they will be redeemed – made new. A transformation is to take place. A new birth, a new creature is now operating in the world.
What happens to the church’s message when this doesn’t happen?
In the slide toward political power and social approval, churches left themselves without recourse when members fall short, not in small human foibles, but in gross behaviors which even non-believers may not condone.
Such is the current fallout with sexual abuse and other extreme violations of human dignity. Discussing views on how the church got sex wrong will be held for another post, but the dilemma the church faces over members who fall below a decent not to mention Christian claim to character is a major challenge.
If the standard of character transformation is no longer a sign of accepting redemption, the church is left with the watered- down tea of social pressure and lip service.
When not just members but leaders are shown to have fed upon the fold rather than nourish them, the party line is left with nothing but condemnation. Sin becomes the focus and not relationship with God. Cries of “kick them out” arise. There is no mercy for the twice-sinned. Members turn upon each other. Traumatic house- cleaning commences.
The application of forgiveness of sins becomes problematic when narcissistic manipulation protects the predator and condemns the victim. This is the reverse of what Jesus taught. Protecting the institution becomes more important than genuine repentance but this is only cliff hanging.
The church is left with the dilemma of admitting they have been a sham show or closing ranks. What would Jesus do?
Here we are left with His disdains for the hypocritical religious leaders of his day. He did not mince words for them and instead preferred people who knew they were in trouble, needed help and were grateful when they got it.
Mock repentence in order to hold onto to position and power are not Christ-like. When churches encourage a view that we are better than those who are unsaved, they have painted themselves into a corner if the betters are less than the lowers.
The window out of the corner is to abandon the false foundation and start over.
The foundation crumbled when a static rather than a dynamic view of salvation was used to build.
In the static view, salvation remains outside the person and he still remains a worthless person, relying on Jesus outside of himself for viability. Eternal groveling is required. “Rejoicing” in what Jesus has done for me or to me, not in me, is the membership card. It becomes a system that praises suffering and death. Emotional pathology can be encouraged as pain becomes pleasure. There is glee in righteous gore.
In the dynamic view of salvation, Christ within is the hope of glory. An original worthlessness is not required to grow into a fullness of life. Indeed Christ is followed because of higher dimensions of being human. God’s Spirit lives in each person and is pleased with growth and development, harmony, peace, and continual well-being. God is not anti-human. Christ shows what is possible and invites people to do it.
In this view of salavtion, church members are not focused on social status and political power (externals) and concentrate on the power of compassion for fellow human beings who hold Christ within (internal). They don’t hire “professional Christians” to do their faith for them or tell them the right way to do it.
That’s what Jesus did.
The church must not go away sorrowful, like the rich young ruler, when asked to follow Jesus. Nor should they organize around power which becomes the lure for scam artists. Rather they must reclaim gender equality in leadership and use consensus to create community so that everyone is empowered and no one is excluded. There are models, such as recovery groups, that emulate the early house churches.
Being human is not what backed the church into its corner. Pretending superiority is: members better than outsiders; men better than women. A static view of salvation leaves people fighting over manna. It is horrible to see a church torn apart as finger pointing becomes more vicious. Hurling attacks about who is the “genuine” follower is not the path of peace. Neither repentance nor forgiveness are acts that can be commanded on schedule.
Once trust has been betrayed, it is better for the hurt and the ones who hurt to receive therapy and healing and maybe not together. Often the church will have to disband. It takes time. If we are graced, a genuine group of people who want to follow Jesus will reemerge. Love is the doctrine.
The 30 pieces are never worth it.