Simple is something of a buzz word presently. How odd that this interest in simplifying life should coexist with the stubborn refusal to let go of the trappings of The Good Life. Odd, but not at all new…. it is something that has dogged the heels of Christians, and The Church, for a long, long time.
It just has some new expressions, same story, just reissued as a remake. Probably because it continues to sell.
But while being simple is not something to aim for, and simplifying is all relative to where one starts…. Simplicity, as in trueness to essence, is something worth seeking and holding fast.
This is rather a personal issue for me. I have found myself personally regretful and somewhat offended by the presentation of the gospel as something layered upon and so encoumbered, to the point of being in danger of becoming unrecognizable. And the sad case being made worse by interminable discussions on “What is wrong with the Church”. Interminable and vain.
Because the answer is something that was given us early on and is something that has not changed, we just conveniently ignore it.
I, like Michael Spencer, am weary of the permutations of the many sorts of “Christianity”. But I believe the basic answer to the ills are fairly simple and basic…. and am convinced even more of my opinion since reading a very secular and liberally evolutionary-theory laced book: The Status Syndrome.
If you will be patient I would like to explain.
First, Bible verses :
Let me start with fundamentals….. Simplicity of Christ in the Church.
I have thought this opinion for a good number of years now, and in its basic form it will strike a chord with many fellow Christians… and non-Christians, but I would like to ennunciate it with enough clarity to wipe aside the type of non-thinking assent that I feel is deadly for important and misunderstood concepts.
It is this: the New Testment Church is one of inclusion. You’re with me on this, aren’t you? But what do we mean by inclusion? It is not what is normatively practiced… because that has very often been along party lines. Conservative and/or rebel party lines, so as to sidestep the real work of agape love that results in real inclusion.
The reason The Status Syndrome helped me clarify some thought on this is that the author, Marmot, has followed some statistics on the health decline following a status decline in numerous societies and drawn a books-worth of social theory on it.
As I read it, I felt strongly that the Church, the outcome of the gospel of Jesus Christ, has the answer on this. But it is not expressed very well because we are not well acquainted with the real inclusion of the New Testament Church.
We all know this verse, but how often is it practiced in the Church? The two modern models of the church are the Business Corporation and the Country Club. The models cater to the cliques that best feed them: inclusion on basis of either usefulness to the group and alignment with the goals or on that of convivial fellowship and entertainment. In these two models many disciples of Jesus Christ are cast aside, neglected, and worse. They don’t fit with the plan and the concept. Not in the new design that is so EYE, or so HAND, or so EAR. They are a different part with a different purpose that doesn’t always meld so well with the new made design of the “conceptors” as opposed to the purpose of the Creator in Christ’s Body. So excise them…. we don’t need that particular appendage if it is troublesome or needy…. or just atrophying away. Or benignly allow attrition to do its work. Whatever’s easiest or most suits the drive and personality of the new group.
That is most of the churches in the two nutshells. And it leaves a wake of hurt and disillusioned souls along the pathways of either success model or pleasure model.
B-b-b-ut not my Church! My church includes the displaced and dispossessed!
Does it? Or is it just another form of displacement? Moving things around along the lines of Communist Socialism? To a new group of haves and have nots of “Social Capitol”- a term from the book.
Why Reparation is Not Enough
It is not enough to open inclusion to certain groups….. and displace others. In the New Testment Church there must be a thoughtful consideration of each persons responsibilities and value. And a care for someone just because they are in Christ. A ‘state of being’ acceptance. One with not equality, but with opportunity. Perfectly equal is not either equal or fair, but love and opportunity meet the needs of all to progress and be nurtured. This is what the secular statistics pointed to: we need a sense of inclusion in the group, others that we relate to and find a place with. Supports and opportunities and hope. Hope that we can work towards that which is better, that we can be better, that we leave a heritage of betterment, and not just for me, mine, and ours.
This kind of inclusion takes personal work. It takes the attitude, lived daily of that last Bible verse. It takes the method of I Corinthians 13. It takes a concerted effort to the renewel of thinking along the lines of Jesus teaching and away from the saturation of the worldly thinking of our culture…. whatever culture that is. But we knew this, didn’t we? It was there all along.
We just don’t take God seriously. We think we can get away with what we have been doing.
But, friends, I have news for you…. we are not getting away with it. The consequences are catching up with us, and desparately grasping around for new variations of the models is not working… faster than we can now produce them.
Although not to worry. The reason it is not all gone down the tubes is simple.
There is a God. He has a plan. He has not abandoned His Church. His Will will be done.
We just want to be there on the same page.”Thy Will be done.”
“In earth, as it is, in Heaven”.
Amen. Start with me. Including my fellow Christians. Including those who don’t agree with me. Honoring those whom we ought, in the way we ought. Loving to the greastest degree we can. Respecting individual humans. We can start there in our churches….. and real inclusion will delinate the boundaries. The boundaries of respect and truth and love will be drawn and given predominance…. because it is the nature of who we are in Christ Jesus that will define real inclusion based on being and on love. That nature must be given room to grow and establish.
And this is what my experience has left me with: that my one duty is to conform to the nature of Christ Jesus… not be the best housekeeper on the block, or the hostess with the Mostest Stuff, or the busiest Women’s Ministry do -it -all. Sit at the feet of Christ, rise up and serve. Simple.
That my one challenge is to see others as Christ sees them: their inestimable worth and the opportunity and potential that I can try to support in them.
Two things. Simplicity, itself.