When one declares oneself to be a conservative, one is not, unfortunately, thereupon visited by tongues of fire that leave one omniscient. The acceptance of a series of premises is just the beginning. After that, we need constantly to inform ourselves, to analyze and to think through our premises and their ramifications. We need to ponder, in the light of the evidence, the strengths and the weaknesses, the consistencies and the inconsistencies, the glory and the frailty of our position, week in and week out. Otherwise, we will not hold our own in a world where informed dedication, not just dedication, is necessary for survival and growth.

William F. Buckley Jr., Feb 8, 1956, NR

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Greatest of These is Love!

Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down. It is thrown into the fire. You can tell each tree by its fruit. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven. Only those who do what my Father in heaven wants will enter. "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord! Lord! Didn't we prophesy in your name? Didn't we drive out demons in your name? Didn't we do many miracles in your name? 'Then I will tell them clearly, 'I never knew you. Get away from me, you who do evil!'
Matthew 7:19-23

Two days before Christmas, the husband of the sister of one of my high school classmates died of liver cancer. They had been married 24 years. They did everything together and had no children. She told me that she lost her "soul mate."

Christy was one of my sister's best friends in high school but as life goes, we live and our paths diverge and we lose touch with one another. I hadn't seen Christy since high school. We grew up in Carbondale, Il, a small university town, our homes less than 2 miles apart. Out of the blue, I get an email from Christy one night telling me that she and Colleen, my classmate, were at her home, which as it turns out is about 4 miles from my home here in Nashville. How ironic, I'd lived here for 15 years and never knew she was here, let alone, so close.

Here's the heart of the matter. I love the lord Jesus Christ! He is my savior and hope. I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus. Christy and Colleen related to me how Christy had been harangued by co-workers about her husband's soul salvation. Many of them, co-workers and she says Southern Baptists, were telling her that he was in danger of hellfire if he did not confess Jesus...

I also love Nashville, it has been described as the most churched city in the country. I understand the desire to share the Gospel, even the admonition to do so but who among you believes that this is the way to go about it? Mind you, her husband was diagnosed in October and died, as I mentioned, 2 days before Christmas.

I shared with Colleen and Christy a conversation I had with someone I met while purchasing a new set of tires. He said that he met a woman from Hawaii who said that Nashville is the most unfriendly town. He and I made a discovery or had a revelation, the woman was probably right at least as it relates to the unchurched. We tend to live in our own bubbles or circles that involve church here in middle Tennessee.

My younger children attend church school, my older children's core of friends are college aged members of the church or those who have been adopted by that impossibly huge gaggle that seems to move in unison and were they to be high enough off the ground, they would appear to NORAD as incoming.

Aside from work, there is prayer meeting, teacher's meeting, youth and children's choir rehearsal, praise team rehearsal, church basketball league, church super bowl parties, picnics, school programs, church Valentines day, Christmas parties, etc. Oh and then there's church service and we eat together after church and usually on Friday nights. I'm not complaining, to the contrary, it's a wonderful support system. Have we become so isolated, however, that we have lost touch? We are called to be a peculiar people, not a people detached from reality. I don't have answers, just questions that I will commit to prayer.


rockync said...

I understand the draw of social support from your church, having been an avid church attendee for many years.
But, I have, over time, questioned the tenets and dogma and traditions practiced within these institutions that defy the concept of "Christian love."
I now identify myself as a deist, continuing in spiritual communication with God and quite content with the condition of my soul even though I continue to seek spiritual growth and maturity.
I cannot ascribe to any religion or group who would condemn another's soul simply because they THINK the departed didn't meet the required conditions.
I cannot imagine a heaven that would bar entrance to Mother Theresa or Mathatma Ghandi.
So, soon there will be comments galore to refute my stance here and that's fine; I'm used to it.
You tell that sister heaven is a place where the unbounded love of God fills your soul to overflowing and the love found on earth is just a pale imitation.
And the only people that are NOT going to know that feeling are those who have no love in them and do evil to others. It is that very lack of love within that bars them from entering into God's love.

TAO said...

Yes, I lived in Nashville for five years and while I would not say it is an unfriendly city I agree that its citizens have some collective issues.

But I believe your main point is the issue of a religious mindset and the obvious claustophobic lifestyle that ensures.

Call it the arrogance of inclusion.

Realistically, there appears to be this belief that believers are under attack for their beliefs and in the ensuring debate Christians seem to circle their wagons and preapare for the attack of the LIBERALS.

If christianity and or religion was so maligned in this country then why would a city like Nashville literally have a church on every street?

Or why would they be the growing as huge as they are here where I live? Where we can even boast a mosque and two synagogues...in a town of 63,000!

If religion was under attack then why do our politicans seek to kiss the ring of prominent religious leaders?

Being a Christian used to connotate a quiet steadfast compassion but now it seems to reflect an anger and arrogance.

Ones beliefs once were the rights of the individual and now they seem to be something that is only a right if one becomes part of a group. If one does not profess membership then one cannot profess to be Christian.

It seems also that the strength of ones beliefs are no longer manifested in ones actions but rather in ones participation in and blind following of an organized religious group.

I would question the strength of my personal convictions if I had to constantly surrond myself with life minded group members. I would question my personal beliefs if I found satisfaction in beating others over the head with my own personal beliefs if I came away with a sense of superiority over others.

I always read the bible to reaffirm an inner strength and to refocus my energy but I cannot help but believe that organized religion now is nothing more than a crutch....and easy way to develop a sense of personal self worth without having to think or believe by ones self.

Gayle said...

My church is a huge part of my life and I love my church family, but I would be very upset if my church believed that only those who worship the Lord in the manner we do will make it to heaven. If I believed that those who worship there believed that, I would leave the church. This subject has been discussed in Church meetings and the general consensus was that neither we, or any other religion, has the right to say that God will only accept those who think as we do. I attend my Church because it is the Church of my choice and does many good things and I'm very comfortable there. However, I can worship God anywhere I choose for He is everywhere. When I don't feel like getting off my duff and getting to church, which sometimes happens because our church worship begins at 9:00 am and I don't live in town where the church is, I don't feel guilty about it. Church is indeed a wonderful support system, CB, and one I would hate to give up, but it should not be isolated.

I pray that you will find your answers in prayer. Perhaps this subject should be discussed in your church as well?

rockync said...

Gayle, you present a very reasonable approach and I applaud you and your church for not only discussing the issue but actually taking a stand.
Unfortunately, you and yours are a minority among those who would call themselves Christians, especially those who consider themselves fundamentalists.
More people need to attend to the state of their own souls instead of determining to be God's judge and jury.
Seems like as it is in politics so it is in religion - that all have gotten so far from their roots, they are lost in a mire of their own making.

CB said...

Don't get me wrong, I don't think we are moving in the wrong direction as Christians by expanding the activities that we engage in under the imprimatur of the church. Nor do I believe there is anything wrong with sharing the Gospel. I certainly don't believe there is anything wrong with organized religion per se. In fact, on all of the accounts, the bible admonishes us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together and the Great Commission implores us to share the good news.

My assumption has been that the love of Christ and the prompting of the Holy Spirit will lead us to approach others in love and that that love will guide us to feed the hungry instead of forcing doctrine down their throat instead. Once fed, the hungry might ask why we helped, then the opportunity to share might avail itself, but then again it might not, it's not for us to force anything because the Holy Spirit brings conviction, not my rhetorical skill.

I don't know if it is a denominational issue either. Christy mentioned Southern Baptists and I'm not a Southern Baptist but I'm not certain that people from my own faith tradition wouldn't have done the same. I pray that we wouldn't say, Doug, you're going to hell if you don't confess Jesus as your savior. That may be an issue with Southern Baptists, I know that we have a good number of people who believe that unless you are a member of my church (I'm a 7th Day Adventist) that you won't go to heaven, this despite the church's teaching and the plain language of the bible where Jesus says, other sheep have I that are not of this fold. The Church of Christ has a strong belief in that regard...but I've run far afield of where I wanted to go with this. I was really just frustrated by the lack of caring displayed by too many to a friend in need.

Robert said...

I am a Christian. I am onthe Road to Canterbury, as stated in my intro, having found the Episcopal Church after a lifetime of being a Southern Baptist. I accepted Christ at 15, haven't always walked the walk that I should, but my faith is there and I rely upon it.

Several years ago I stopped going to church...not toally stopped, but we moved and I couldn't find a church home that was what I wanted. I visited several Baptist churches and they all had plasma screen and praise services; people wore jeans and spent alot of time saying "Praise God." I know God doesn't care what we wear or if we watch a plasma screen for the words to the song. I don't like the current trend toward simplifying worship and passing the collection plates and building ten million dollar sanctuaries that are never even half full.

While I grew up my church was evangelical. We witnessed and brought new people to God. Now, the church ministers to its members and builds athletic buildings and buys new buses, yet can't find the time to bring new people to the church. Craig, we have isolated ourselves, and become self-serving and ignore the Great Commission.

I agree with what you said about our personal witness. We should not do what we do with force onto new people, but to do it subservient to their needs.

This past summer I attended my brother's wedding at a 200 year old Episcopal Church where Jeffereson Davis worshipped during the War of Northern Aggression (throwing in an irelevant historical fact, thats all) and there was such reverence for the ceremony and ritual. There was silence and humility in the church itself. No one yelled Praise God, but bowed their heads to his word and stood close to each other as they approached for the Eucharist.

Both of my brothers had already become Episcopalians. My youngest brother once an ordained Baptist minister, and my next youngest served with me in the Marines. They found a home in the church and have both been pleased. I have recently, as of several months ago, begun my journey as well, having found a respect for God unlike I have seen in many years.

I don't think Christianity is that complicated. A good friend and I had a conversation recently about it, and it can be summed up like this: Christianity is nothing more than the belief in the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ, and accepting him as the savior. The rest of it is just fluff that man attachs." The discussion centered around "dunking" or "sprinkling", grape juice in plastic medicine cups or real wine in a gold chalice...None of it matters to whether the Holy Spirit resides in your heart.

Christianity should not be forcing, coercing, threatening...it should be the exhibition of love and service to man.

Anonymous said...

Lately, while browsing different sites I see the term "religious wing nut" come up time and again. My first reaction is resentment because they generalize that all Christians are freaks, for a lack of a better word. Then my rational side kicks in and reminds me that they have a point. There are many "Christians" that don't act the slightest bit like what God calls us to do.

Take Fred Phelps for instance. You can call him a religious freak and be spot on. The man who bombed an abortion clinic is another example. They take something that is so perfect and pure and twist it until it no longer resembles what it used to be. I have a very big issue with people like this that take religion to this extreme. They accomplish nothing but anger and resentment and if anything push people farther away from His word.

I've always felt that actions speak much louder than words and I have never tried to force feed Christianity down anyones throat. That doesn't mean that I can't be a witness through my deeds and actions like Craig spoke of above.

I belong to a Methodist Church and if anyone ever did what they did to Christy I would be out of there in a heatbeat. I truly think there has to be a happy medium when it comes to who you spend time with. I am close with a lot of people who attend the church and they have been there when I have been going through some rough times, with their prayers, support and love. That is priceless to me! To surround yourself with only Christians, takes away any chance of reaching people. It doesn't allow you to learn or grow as a person when everyone shares the same opinion.

"You are the only Bible some will ever see."

I do think that you can get caught up in "religion" and lose sight of what being a Christian really means. It is not a cause, nor is it a contest to see how many people you can recruit. It is a belief and a conviction that is in my heart and I wish to share with others. Again, that doesn't mean preaching to people or forcing it down their throats. It means simply living a life, where others know your a Christian by your words AND your deeds.

Gayle said...

"...living a life, wehre others know you're a Christian by your words AND your deeds." Exactly, Robert.

Incidently, Robert, I'm also an Epsiscopalian. My church is very small though. We are in a small town so on a really good Sunday we may have 40 people.

Robert said...

That was actually Jennifer....

Mine is a medium-large...not a monstrosity like First Baptist in Dallas, but large enogh to offer programs, yet not be lost in the service. Glad to know you are ECUSA!

CB said...


I agree with you, by the way, about the civil war (war of northern aggression). Lincoln, in many ways was our first fascist president.

I can only remember attending church twice as a child. I came to Jesus "just as I am" as an adult.

I like what you and Jenn say about Christianity because it's true. Even among Christians, man made denominational differences can be a barrier to the spirit of fellowship and love that Christ demonstrated as an example for us.

My belief system is the platform that best allows me to develop my relationship with Jesus and to reflect his life of love expressed through servant leadership. I began to teach what we call "Sabbath School" to adults because one, I had to learn in order to teach and two, to address some of the tendency toward legalism I especially encountered from people who had been Adventists for a long time.

Gayle is right too. There is great value in organized religion. The sense of community, security for children continually bombarded by secular messages, support, etc. The struggle is not to become so denominationally distinct as to lose the essence of the fellowship, manifesting itself in my most recent example, by being cruel to the dying or the bereaved.

Some denominational distinctions are understandable, we worship on Sabbath, the Eucharist is central to your practice, Methodists share much of the same liturgy taken from the Church of England that you do with some notable exceptions.

Some worship styles are different and understandable. Some prefer a more dignified, reflective service, others a more robust experience. Denominational and worship style preferences reflect the tapestry of man but through all that we should not lose focus on the author and finisher of our faith.

nanc said...

you have to break some eggs to make an omelet - as my recovered alcoholic father told me before he died, "you cannot reach the alcoholic unless you're willing to go into a few bars or liquor stores."

i'll never forget that and am trying to live my life reaching out to those who would not otherwise know who the Lord is. would my Yeshua only attend church on sundays and wednesdays preaching to the choir?

sometimes we must step out of our comfort zones in order to become those peculiar people He was speaking of. it's not so bad being hated when you know WHO they hated before you.