30 November 2014

When Structures Kill

I can't find the word "organic" anywhere in the Bible. My Hebrew is non-existent and my Greek nearly so but I haven't ever run across it in a concordance, an inter-linear, or any translation or interpretation (I doubt the word existed during the time of King James).

But the original Church of Jesus was totally organic- it was Jesus and people and food and miracles and joy and stuff like that. It was constantly in motion, constantly growing, constantly new. The main non-organic part was Holy Spirit, who just takes organic into new realms.

In too many cases, the modern version of the Church (or rather, many churches) thinks in terms of structures- land, physical plant, hierarchy, covering, accountability, and so on. In and of themselves, there's nothing wrong with any of these. But taken to extremes they are extremely destructive. Couple these with lots of rules and regulations (as inevitably happens when structures take over) and you ten toward becoming a cult. Blech.

If the structures don't facilitate the organic Church- the community, the family- then I have no use for them. If the bricks, rules, or any other structure tries to define / solely contain / otherwise run the organic relationships, I'm out.

When structures start trumping the organic Church, they are probably driven by one or more of these culprits:

  1. Control - someone feels the need
  2. Fear - "If we don't..." "If we let..." "What if?" "Do you know what happened?" "Do you know what could happen?"
  3. Misunderstanding the Bible
  4. Taking verses out of context
There may well be others but I have seen these time and again. I've seen a lot of good people hurt badly by all of these. The antidotes?
  1. Love.
  2. Grace.
  3. Honor.
  4. Freedom.
  5. Joy
  6. Peace
All that stuff. Every. Last. Time. And we know the real source of the antidote- a relationship with God: with Daddy, with Jesus, with Holy Spirit.

I honestly don't care if you have joined a "local church" although there's a lot to be said for that if you can find a healthy one (or are healthy enough to help grow one). Community and family look different to different people. If your community and family are strictly online, that's better than nothing! (There was a time that other than my wife, my main community of faith was online.) But some days you need a hug, Or coffee or tea. Or whatever. Or they do. So look around you. There's someone. Embrace your brother and sister regardless of where they worship or what label (if any) they wear. Remember the second commandment- just like the first- "love your neighbor as yourself". Laugh with those who rejoice and weep with those who mourn. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Take care of the outcast. Eat and drink together. Sing, dance, play games, talk, pray, sit quietly, go for walks, heal the sick, set the captive free.

That's what Jesus did. That's what the disciples did. Why do we think we have a better plan? Do you really think Jesus would have been more effective with modern business methods? Do you really think he didn't see these coming? He did. He might have wept.

28 November 2014

The Other Ten Commandments

When asked which was the greatest commandment- presumably of the ten God gave Moses- Jesus blew some minds.

Jesus replied: "`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Mt 22/37-40, NIV)

Inevitably when I bring this up, someone adamantly reminds me that Jesus did not come to abolish the law, and that we must not forget about the other commandments. Since very, very few of these people observe the Jewish dietary laws I'll assume they mainly mean the Ten Commandments. So how do they apply?

In general, I would say that Jesus' two commandments do not abolish the ten; they fulfill them. It's not that we should ignore the ten, it's more that if we truly follow (or fall into) the two, the ten are no longer a big deal. Let's break that down.

  1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
    If I love God with all that is in me, what other gods would I love, much less more than God?
  2. You shall not make idols.
    An idol is something to worship. If I love completely, idols fall by the wayside, or get obliterated.
  3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
    Why would I speak lies about my beloved, or curse him?
  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
    I will certainly set aside time for the one I love most!
  5. Honor your father and your mother.
    If we truly love someone we will honor them.
  6. You shall not murder.
    How can I murder someone I love? And we are to love all.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
    Why would I cheat on someone I love? If I'm seriously tempted to cheat (temptation itself comes to all, even as it did to Jesus; I'm talking about seriously considering it) then I'm not really loving my wife enough and it's time to get my love on.
  8. You shall not steal.
    As with the others, how can I steal from someone I love? That would show a serious problem.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
    I can't lie about the character or actions of someone I care deeply about.
  10. You shall not covet.
    If I love my neighbor (Jesus made it clear in another parable that's everyone) I'm not going to want to take their stuff. I'm going to be happy for them.
Is it sounding like a broken record by the end? It probably should. It's the same principle.

Jesus made it clear while talking to a crowd on the side of a mountain that we don't really even understand the point of the commandments. For instance, "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Mt 5/28, NIV) It's about the heart as much as the actions. This doesn't mean the actions don't matter; it means the heart matters as well. But if I love that woman as God does, if I see her as God does, then I'm going to hate the very idea of lusting after her, and kick lust to the curb. That frees me up to express love; I can look her in the eyes, hug her, laugh with her, weep with her, let her talk about anything she needs to, and generally be in a safe relationship. My wife, knowing my heart, doesn't have to worry. And she, having that same love, is free in her relationships with others as well, and I have nothing to fear. Jealousy has no foothold.

(Someone will inevitably bring up safety here. If we're close to God, he'll let us know when to be careful with someone. If we're in community, we all have each others' backs. But too often when we talk about safety, it's fear driven. "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear..." (I Jn 4/18) That whole love thing again...)

If you need guidelines for what love looks like (or more generally doesn't look like), spend some time pondering the ten commandments. But since Love is a person, spend more time pondering, getting to know, being loved by, and loving God. Everything else grows out of that.