Friday, April 09, 2010

Unity

Our church is in the middle of a "capital campaign." These things are inevitable, I suppose, because we live in bodies that must go into buildings, buildings must be functional and a little impressive to draw crowds, drawing crowds is good, etc. etc. I understand the purposes of the campaign and support them generally but am also a tad ambivalent about them.

A company has been hired to help us, and part of the campaign involves teaching Sunday School lessons about "one" in the month of April. "One mind" is this week's theme. The passage, of course, is Phil. 2:1-11.

I hold all the Bible in great esteem, especially the New Testament (don't accuse me of heresy here), but there are certain passages that are especially dear and awe-inspiring and terrible (in the best sense of that word). John 11 is one (it will be read at my funeral); Romans 8; parts of Revelation; I Corinthians 13. And Philippians 2:1-11, part or all of which was a hymn in the early church. The Old King James has a poetry to it, but the theology is better explicated in newer translations.

This passage is about cosmic reality--the world beyond but including this one--and I have no real idea how I am going to teach it without pontificating or more likely, stumbling. And that is exactly it--all passages on unity in the New Testament go beyond a "let's all get along together" niceness or a "let's all play on the same team" motivational speech quality. Unity has its basis in theology. The Trinity is unity. Jesus prayed for us to be one--not just superficial agreeableness, but ONE. There is no free or slave or Greek or Jew or woman or man; there is already, in an eternal and heavenly sense, oneness. We just refuse to obey and recognize spiritual reality when we insist on our own way and cause division in the important matters.

I will add to this more later; it is my point of meditation right now so these thoughts are incomplete and fragmented. But I come back to the issue of this capital campaign. I have honestly told my class that if these lessons are about us being led to repentance and true obedience so that we are in a position to hear from God about our giving, then I'm for it. But if it's a way to manipulate people into feeling a unity that isn't there and give on an emotional basis, then I am not. The prospect of the latter scares me, but even more it angers me.

As I have mentioned before, our relationship with God is not quid pro quo. If we repent with an objection in mind other than repentance, because we are sinful, I'm not sure I believe that is repentance. Even if we repent to get "revival" (whatever that is), I doubt that is repentance. If we become unified to get a blessing from God, it will be short-lived, either until we get the blessing or we see we aren't going to. Obedience with a purpose other than the glory of God is not obedience.

I have heard people say they doubt God's love, maybe because their own experiences indicate to them that God doesn't love them personally because of the trials they have been through, maybe because of their own feelings or lack of feelings of warmth and concern from God in their own hearts, maybe because they are too sinful. These statements are sad but they are reveal nothing about God and only something about the speaker. God is love. God's love is as reliable as the sunrise, well, actually, more so. I do not doubt God's love. I often wonder why my heart is cold to God, and I often wonder why I am not learning the lesson or seeing the purpose of a trial, but I Corinthians 10 tells me I am not experiencing any trial lots of others haven't experienced. I often am overwhelmed by my sinfulness and apathy and failure. But that has nothing to do with God's love. It is the only constant in my universe. This may not comfort those who lived by their feelings. I find it very comforting.

3 comments:

drgregb said...

Well said, Barbara. Unity should flow from us not be forced into us! If we all love Jesus more than ourselves, we will love others more than ourselves too!

Regarding church campaigns, I fear local churches are more about themselves (their survival, their success) than they are about Jesus. When Jesus returns He will be looking for a spoteless Bride, not a sparklling building.

Barbara Tucker said...

Absolutely well said. I fear that pastors also like the idea of a building that they can leave, but those buildings often end up causing problems (debt, division) in the future.

drgregb said...

In California, many churches have sold their properties to developers, and then taken the money and bought warehouses. We are seeing the new wave of warehouse buildings becoming churches.

There's an interesting book by Wayne Jacobsen called "So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore" discussing the purpose of the church and where local churches have missed the point. He is at Lifestream ministries. Thought provoking...

Peace

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