11.14.2006

if you don't have anything good to say...

I haven't posted much here lately. A while back I felt convicted that I had let this become my own "soap box" where I could ridicule, criticize, or belittle whoever I wanted. My favorite target was the people, and especially the leadership of the church. I called it speaking the truth in love. The truth is that it wasn't very loving at times.
I do believe that we, as believers, should spur each other on to good works. I believe that iron sharpens iron, but I've also come to the conclusion that when our attacks on each other are less than loving, and all too public, that it can be damaging to the witness of the church. I cringe when I think of the possibility that a non believer could stumble upon my rants and raves as I tear apart the church, and decide that they want nothing to do with such a dysfunctional family.

We are the body of Christ. We are flawed for sure, but we need each other, we need to build each other up, we need to support each other.



"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life, your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life, and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

I'm speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it's important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we're talking about is Christ's body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn't amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body, let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't.

If you preach, just preach God's Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don't take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don't get bossy; if you're put in charge, don't manipulate; if you're called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don't let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face."
Romans 12.1-8

"Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way you do. And don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with, —even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.

For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ's table, wouldn't it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn't eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God's welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.

Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.

What's important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God's sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you're a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It's God we are answerable to, all the way from life to death and everything in between, not each other. That's why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.

So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I'd say it leaves you looking pretty silly, —or worse. Eventually, we're all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren't going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:

"As I live and breathe," God says,
"every knee will bow before me;
Every tongue will tell the honest truth
that I and only I am God."
So tend to your knitting. You've got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.

Forget about deciding what's right for each other. Here's what you need to be concerned about: that you don't get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is."
Romans 14.1-13

4 comments:

Crissi said...

I almost feel like you were reassuring ME in this post, even though it isn't specifically to me. I have been blogging less in my own blog, and when I do, it rarely has to do with faith. For one, I was starting to go the negative route in my own blog about Christianity, stemming from some personal frustrations. But second, I began being attacked by fellow Christians, and it hurt more than they'll ever know. I felt abandoned, and I began to put more faith in my anger and hurt towards them than I did in God. So I stopped. And suddenly my faith blog stopped being a faith blog.

But you know what? My faith still lives in my heart and in my soul. And though you don't see me at church anymore, or rejoicing in God in written word, I still have those moments when the air I breathe, coming in and out of me, is the very breath of God giving me life.

Jimmy, I thank you for your faithfulness, for your quiet evangelism by living the life of Jesus for others to see. I thank you for your nonjudgmental guidance to God. And I thank you for you.

jamie said...

Jimmy, I understand. I shut my blog down because of the unintended consequences. Unfortunately, I do miss the everyday communication with friends I met that I didn't know before...

Brandon said...

Jimmy,

I know where you're coming here. I've been on this journey myelf and just recently decided I needed to go to some of the Pastors of my church and ask them to forgive me for having the heart of a Pharisee. It was all to easy to fall into being critical and judgemental of the institutional church under the banner of what is "right" for the emerging generations.

I believe in speaking out about things that are just not working in the church, but not causing disunity. Thanks for this post, I needed to read your words.

- Brandon

TGL said...

Sometimes it is so easy to be critical instead of helpful even when the desire is to be truly helpful. I don't think God expects perfection from us, but He does see it in us.

Having recently joined up with some other guys to really be accountable for our lives to each other and to God, I have found I just have too many logs in my own eye to worry much about others'.

Keep posting Jimmy, don't give up on it.