Friday, April 30, 2010
Outlining The End
The ways of destroying the church are many and colorful. Raw factionalism will do it. Rank heresy will do it. Taking your eyes off the cross and letting other, more peripheral matters dominate the agenda will do it-admittedly more slowly than frank heresy, but just as effectively over the long haul. Building the church with superficial ‘conversions’ and wonderful programs that rarely bring people into a deepening knowledge of the living God will do it. Entertaining people to death but never fostering the beauty of holiness or the centrality of self-crucifying love will build an assembling of religious people, but it will destroy the church of the living God. Gossip, prayerlessness, bitterness, sustained biblical illiteracy, self-promotion, materialism-all of these things, and many more, can destroy a church. And to do so is dangerous: ‘If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple (1 Cor. 3:17).” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.I read that - several times - and was saying "Amen - AMEN - AMEN!!!!!!" in my mind, and then it struck me - Can those things really destroy the church? I mean, here we are some 2000 years after Jesus walked the earth - all of those things have happened in "the church" countless times and yet somehow, the church is still here. We are fractured and split, we engage in endless debate about "the truth," we call each other heretics all the time - but here we are.
Those things have destroyed congregations, even denominations, but have they destroyed the church? - of course not! But it should also be remembered that congregations and denominations that have fallen into those things have been redeemed. God saves us from ourselves over and over and over again.
There is, frankly, nothing more humiliating than grace. Damnation allows us to slink defiantly into our godforsaken eternity. But grace, well, grace makes us eventually look our need for it square in the eye. I am wondering if there is not just a bit of defiance in proclaiming what can end that which God has preserved for millenia? Proclaiming what is wrong, what is sin, this we are called to do - but proclaiming the end of something, declaring its death - particularly when it is something that God wishes desperately to save? I wonder if that is not substituting our judgment for His?
Funny how sin begats so much sin, even in the name of that which is holy.