We, The Church

"We, the church, are arguing over fingernails and mustard flavors."

LET’S ARGUE ABOUT ANTS. I have more than you and mine are black. Well, yeah, you say, but mine are tiny. No, no, no, you’re both wrong, our friend replies. You only have to worry about the red ones. (Both of us now stare at her. Whatever.) Or, I know! The problem with society today is pants. People are wearing the wrong pants. The day some youngster decided to imitate her daddy’s workpants, all of fashion went to pot. Back in my day we had these pants with elastic to hold them on your feet. Looked kinda like stirrups. Pair that with a good banana comb and girl ….

This is dumb. We, the church, are arguing over fingernails and mustard flavors. One group can’t deal with another group, so they go split off and cluster together. That fixes it. No, it only isolates you and promotes division. Another group can’t take the new music, and though I get this in part, there is a Scripture for it. “Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come (Psalm 71:18).” My hair’s not quite gray but unless someone old listens to something new, those who haven’t heard what I listened to “back in my day” won’t hear it. But by all means, let’s quibble about it.

Pews or theater seats? I say pew-ter seats. Let’s develop something new where our individuality is intact, but our unity keeps growing. Hey! There’s a thought!! Pulpits or podiums? The minister on stage or the front row? Lights? Fog machines? A baptistry. Or let’s toss all this external stuff aside and argue about doctrine. That’s way more acceptable. At least, we can say we’re only trying to worship Jesus. Picking apart the Scriptures, one man sees stripes, another squares, and we get lost in an ocean of effluvium. Kinda like choosing one lentil over another and all of it cooked in the same pot.

Just stop. Stop it. Stop it. STOP IT. Stop being a bean. All of us got dumped out of a can, we all smell like aluminum until Jesus washes us up, and truth is, mixed in a pot together we make a pretty good soup. I say, instead of arguing over washings and carnal ordinances, we center ourselves on the truth and do what brings us together. What makes the soup taste great? A hambone. Unless you got some good flavoring in there, the whole thing’s gonna taste like water.

“Some have turned away from God’s healing plan and are engaged in childish discussions.” (1 Timothy 1:6, Remedy)

The apostle Paul had this conversation with Timothy, only more Second Century. He wrote him a letter and said some people needed “to be warned against teaching strange doctrines, against occupying their minds with legends and interminable pedigrees, which breed controversy.” The church was picking each other apart, “branching off into vain speculations … without understanding the meaning of their own words (1 Timothy 1:4,7, Knox).” This is not a debate club. We’re not trying to win one argument over another. Whether a man’s ancestry is Jewish, Syrian, Kenyan, or Australian doesn’t make him better than any other. Neither does being right or wrong over the finer points of Scripture.

“You are the salt of the earth; if salt loses its taste, what is there left to give taste to it? There is no more to be done with it, but thrown it out of doors for men to tread it under foot.” (Matthew 6:13, Knox)

We call each other out, making of that one an example. We call people in other religions out and circle the wagons. Once more, I ask, Did Jesus do that? He healed men and women of Gentile nations who believed in Him more than many of His own people. He spoke of Himself as the living water to a woman at a well in Samaria who had a unsettled past. The “greatest faith” in all of Israel were words He spoke over a Roman soldier. Do you think He listened to any of these people and rolled His eyes? Then why do we?

We can only “go ye into all the world and preach the gospel” when we are operating in the love of God. People condemned for not understanding who Jesus is will go the other way when facing scowls and threats. People whose doctrine may be slightly off need God’s revelation, His gentle Spirit, not our spate of worthless words. Minister Jesse Duplantis tells of delivering a girl from demonic oppression which she’d picked up after a church condemned her for her hair style and type of dress. Seriously people? That girl was tormented day and night because of THE CHURCH when Jesus came to seek the lost, to show the Father’s great love for us, and to heal those oppressed of the devil. John 3:16. Acts 10:38. He came to fulfill the Old Testament Law because none of it could save anyone. It was a prison sentence meant to keep bad behavior behind bars because otherwise no one knew when to stop and all of society crumbled.

Renew your mind. Change your thinking. Pull down what makes you see what you disagree with instead of what is good. Do you walk in the room and see people’s skin colors? Stop. Do you notice what they’re wearing first, or do you see the smile on their face? Another story fits in here. A minister was at a conference and noticed a woman dancing what looked to him inappropriately, and though he didn’t say so, he was thinking far too much about it. Then another minister at the conference told him that woman had been set free from prostitution, and his opinion changed. Only God sees the heart. We need to walk in the Spirit where our thinking is concerned and trust Him to guide us through the maze of people around us. And differing doctrines. And the importance of some of what’s written in the Word. There are places that require God’s wisdom for us to see them correctly. We must seek God for the truth in them instead of using them to write more rules based on our misunderstandings.

“[Spiritual leaders] must not be drunkards or have rage problems but be gentle and not argumentative or antagonistic. They must not be greedy.” (1 Timothy 3:3, Remedy)

There is one body, one Spirit, One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. Not dozens of sides of Him turned whichever way we’re facing. We don’t get to rewrite the instructions of the Word of God. We don’t get to exclude or include certain people. The God who died for all has high standards. He made us holy so that we can see Him without all of our makeup. So that we can blend together into the perfect painting, one signed by the Artist with His bold pen. And backing up from it, we see a fuller image that looks like Christ and not simply tiny individual portraits slapped close together.

We celebrate each other. We rejoice when that one is promoted, when the other one is healed of her heart condition, when someone sees God for the first time and accepts forgiveness. We love when the one we embrace disagrees with us on most everything. We don’t write it down or ask them about it. We pray for them and let God pick up the pieces. He is the only One who needs to know the details of why they believe like they do. Our part is to love them as He does and actually not notice when what used to offend us enters the room. Our old debate forgotten in the joy of seeing the other person’s face.

“How I thank our Lord Christ Jesus, the source of all my strength, for shewing confidence in me by appointing me his minister, me, a blasphemer till then, a persecutor, a man of violence, author of outrage, and yet, he had mercy on me, because I was acting in the ignorance of unbelief. The grace of the Lord came upon me in a full tide of faith and love, the love that is in Christ Jesus. How true is that saying, and what a welcome it deserves, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I was the worst of all, and yet I was pardoned, so that in me first of all Christ Jesus might give the extreme example of his patience; I was to be the pattern of all those who will ever believe in him, to win eternal life. Honour and glory through endless ages to the king of all the ages, the immortal, the invisible, who alone is God, Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:12-16 Knox)

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Suzanne D. Williams, Author