Wednesday, December 2, 2009
i think many disagreements and conflicts we experience in our personal faith or congregations really boil down to the issue of willingness. Willingness is the real test of the sincerity of our words or where we really stand or what we're really made of. We freely engage in debates with others over how to understand the Bible (or anything in life for that matter). But if the other person showed us we were wrong about something, would we really change?
Suppose someone who approves of instrumental music in worship (Mr. IM) was debating with someone who rejects instrumental music in worship (Mr. AC).
Mr. IM: "Mr. AC, in the hypothetical situation that God came down to us right now and told you to your face that instrumental music was okay, would you change your mind?"
Mr. AC: (thinking to himself)
Mr. IM: "Or suppose that i really could show you from the Bible that instrumental music was okay, would you change your mind?"
Mr. AC: "I guess, if I'm honest, I still wouldn't change my mind."
Mr. IM: "Then it's not really about what the Bible says or not or what God wants, it's really that you're just committed to your view no matter what and you're unwilling to give it up. So why are we even debating about what the Bible teaches?"
i think this sort of "willingness" test shows us where we really are spiritually--whether we're more committed to God or ourselves. Notice: The above conversation couldn't happened with the characters reversed; Mr. AC could've used the willingness-test on Mr. IM. A willingness-test would be revealing of where anyone stands regardless of what position they take in a given debate.
So i'd like to propose another form of the willingness test: "Would you still be a disciple of Christ if...?"
Jesus asked some of His apostles to literally get up and walk away from their jobs and homes and day-to-day lives. If Christ asked you today to walk away from your job, to leave your home, to walk away from your routine and to literally leave familiar places and faces--if that's what being a "Christian" required of you, would you still choose to be one?
The early church had to support each other materially. The Jerusalem church had a number of people who had travelled from their homes just to be in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. Those people had left their jobs and livelihoods and needed the material support of the Christians who were local. The early church also monetarily supported the members who were widows. There likely wasn't life insurance plans or pensions or social security. Widows were in a desperate situation. Churches collected money amongst themselves to make sure the widows in their midst were taken care of. James speaks of the worthlessness of well-wishing versus real material care of brothers in need. And John seems to make material care of fellow Christians in need a litmus test for whether a person even is a Christian.
In our day and time when people in our congregation fall on hard times, we do have things like social security and insurances and even charitable agencies. And i think it's very easy and comfortable for us to think to ourselves, "well, i don't need to give them anything because they've got lots of options they can explore before they'll come to me." [Boy, i'd love to write a post or two just on that attitude alone.] But what if it was your job to take care of that person? What if being a "Christian" required that you took care of that person monetarily and materially? What if being a "Christian" required that you had to host that widow in your home and take care of her? If that's what Christ expect of you, then would you still choose to be His disciple?
The early church also suffered tremendous bouts of persecution. Christians experienced a great deal of mistreatment first from Jews and later on from the Romans. Christians were killed--publically stoned, crucified, made a gory spectacle of in colosseum-style games, etc. They were refused jobs and services. i can't prove this, but i can't help but think that they're children were likely mistreated as well just because of being the child of a Christian. The sad truth is that the vile persecution of Christians is still a very common fact in some parts of the world. But here in the West, we really don't face anything comparable to the first century church. But suppose that's what it meant to be a Christian. Knowing that choosing to be a Christian would tremendously increase your chances of being assaulted or ostracized or even executed, would you still choose to be one?
So did you say "no" to any of the test questions? Did you say "yes," but reluctantly? Did you feel like you just couldn't answer at all? Did you quickly say "yes," but then try not to dwell deeply on what those scenarios would really be like? What does that say about the extent of your willingness to follow Christ?