Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Code, Pt II

This post is to tag-team with Scott's "The Code" post. His dealt with the social issues of dress, modesty, and hypocrisy. Part II looks inward at the eye, the motives, and the intents of the heart.

"The lamp of the body is the eye. Then if your eye is wholesome, all your body is light. But if your eye is evil, all your body is dark. If, then, the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!" (Mt 6:22-23, Green's Literal Translation)

I think this strange saying from the Sermon on the Mount holds enormous power for the life of faith. It follows the seven "but I say unto thee's", and is couched right in the greed and worry verses. The broad theme is that faith triumphs over greed, lust and ambition. Here is my commentary.

The "eye" is your outlook, more or less. Do you look at that cute rear end with evil intent? Are you cursing that kid by wishing evil things upon her? Like adultery? Like debauchery? Maybe worse? Do you resent her beauty because you can't rub up against it? If so, the evil eye you cast on others fills you with darkness--you become the evil you project with your eye.

Or, when you see that Sweety, are you blessing with your eye? Do you see a child of God? Do you wish her life and peace? Is this God's handiwork? Is this another man's bride? Is this where babies come from, the hope of humanity? Are you humbled by God's art, content to love her as just a fellow-human? If your eye is wholesome, then all the hips and lips in the world will only fill you with light. You will not stumble or fall.

It goes back to LOVE, "for to love thy neighbor is the sum of the law." THIS is the righteousness from God that comes by faith in his son.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Code

In this week of Easter, in this time that we ponder and celebrate the death and resurrection of Yeshua as a sacrifice for His church, I think it's time to discuss something really important.

The dress code.

On Easter Sunday, all sorts of people will show up at church. A lot of people that aren't normally there. And people will dress up. The men will wear a suit, or maybe a tie. The women will wear bright yellow dresses and maybe even a big weird hat. Kids will be in uncomfortable clothing that makes playing on the floor practically impossible.

That's fine. It doesn't matter much to me what people wear to church. A suit is fine, shorts and tennis shoes are fine. I'm not terribly concerned either way.

It does become more of a problem when people get upset about what OTHER PEOPLE wear to church.

This is quite common, and it comes in many forms. First of all, you have the people who claim that we must "dress up" to show our respect for God. If you aren't wearing the appropriate clothing, God apparently isn't going to be pleased with your worship.

God likes his ties silk, by the way. No cheap imitations.

But worst of all is the Cleavage Police. These are the folks that believe that if women wear anything too tight, too short, too cute, or too provocative, that it's not at all appropriate. The reasoning for this generally seems to be that men can't control themselves in the sight of attractive females.

Evidently, if a pretty girl has a skirt on that doesn't go below the knee, all the men's minds will be filled with lust and they won't be able to listen to the sermon without visualizing themselves in an all-out pew orgy.

These rules seem to have a certain pecking order in churches:

  1. They only apply to women,
  2. They only apply to attractive young women, and
  3. They especially apply to attractive young women on stage.

This means that if you are an attractive woman who is a singer, or in drama, or in choir, or maybe up front to give the announcements (or preaching)... Please wear multiple turtlenecks, lest the men in the congregation try to molest you when you step off the platform.

Men. They're animals, I tell ya.

I've never understood these arguments, because they don't seem to give Christian men any credit whatsoever. They imply that 1) women need to cover up attractiveness, as if being cute isn't "reverent," and 2) men have no self-control over their sexual thoughts.

Never mind the fact that we're seeing women's legs and arms the other six and a half days of the week. That two hours a week on Sunday morning might just send me over the edge.

In I Timothy 2, Paul asks women "to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God."

I understand that women are to keep in mind reverence for God when they are choosing clothing. They shouldn't be putting stuff on merely to attract an eye of admiration, or to show off. It's something men should keep in mind too, but for some reason, all of the church "clothing rules" only seem to apply to women.

This is, admittedly, a silly topic. But it's also one that I know a lot of people have strong feelings about, and that's why I'm posting it. What do you think? How far do we go, as a church, in policing the clothing choices of people in attendance and people that are "up front"?

And you thought ecclesiology was just about the important issues.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Avoider's Creed

Unity does not equal avoidance.

Confrontation does not have to be an evil, divisive thing for believers.

The Church has somehow, through the years, arrived at a point where we want to avoid controversial topics at all costs. And Christians are fantastic avoiders. We have relationships that are superficial and non-accountable. We have sermons that feel good, but aren't convicting. We have church politics and leaders that often don't know how to deal with bad behavior.

Why are we so scared of conflict? Is the charge for Christian unity among brothers and sisters a call to sweep things under the rug? Can love and admonishment coexist?

We know the answer to that, but we rarely put it into practice.

    Colossians 3:16: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
Teaching and admonishing go together, don't they?

    Galatians 6:1-2: Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
We are to restore our brothers and sisters, and at the same time, we are to help carry their burdens.

    Matthew 18:15-17: If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Christians know these verses. They get thrown around all the time, yet rarely put into practice. Because it's UNCOMFORTABLE. We've somehow been trained to avoid confrontation. A lot of people won't like to be confronted! It's true. It will be uncomfortable.

But it's needed. It has to be done. The church isn't going to grow and thrive without it. Without gentle admonishment, without some serious talking, without confrontation, the church will remain lukewarm.

In our quest to put all believers on the same level, in our desire to see the lines between leadership and layperson dissolved, we have to make sure we don't forget that there IS a Biblical call for confrontation and gentle admonishment. A church full of "avoiders" may grow in numbers, but it will always be a mile wide and an inch deep.

    I Thessalonians 5:12-14: Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
So I ask -- Why have Christians become so scared of confrontation? Are we so frightened of the "hypocrite" tag that we avoid any direct accountability whatsoever?