Sunday, July 1, 2007

Thought for the day

Ben and I have been having this conversation about how we speak to people whose understanding of church and gospel are different from ours. By different I mean mostly more fundamentalist, but that's not it alone. There are some wonderful, well-intentioned, good, kind, decent, faithful folks I know (my inner Pentecostal says they're "prayed up") who hang on to understandings about faith and the church, doctrines if you will, that I just don't agree with. From time to time we find ourselves talking about these issues, and Ben and I don't always agree on how we handle those people and conversations. But I did say something Ben wanted me to write down, and it goes a little like this:
Doctrines are for forming faith and drawing us closer to God...conforming us to Christ's image by the power of the Holy Spirit (ooh, look, there's the Trinity, right there). They are for creating, maintaining, and growing relationships between people and people and between people and God. Doctrines are life giving and love affirming, because they come from the Source of life and love. When doctrines become a way to fence people off from one another and from God, they are no longer the word and truth of God offered in love. Instead they are another example of how we are determined to remake God in our image rather than being remade in His...we want God to like who we like how we like them, to have a God who is limited by our make an idol out of a god that doesn't push us, doesn't stretch us, doesn't call us outside ourselves to see our neighbors in his love. When doctrines become the standard by which we determine (note the pronoun there, it's important) who is godly and who is not, we have wandered off from what God determines to be true for us...we've got it just backwards.
More plainly put, doctrines are for inviting people into relationship with God, not telling them why they can't have one. Doctrines are holy because they are for the purpose of calling us to holiness. They are a blessing because they move us closer in love with God, and the into fruits of God's love in our lives. They are a gift, not a curse, and certainly not a weapon against others.

One criticism of some facets of the emerging church movement is they sometimes throw out the doctrinal baby with the hide-bound traditionalist bathwater, and we mustn't go that far...but we can reclaim the doctrines of our faith as a present from God for our good, and for the good of all God's children. Even the ones we don't like, and don't know, and wouldn't count. They are for us, for growing closer to God. So church, drop your weapons and let's face one another as neighbors.

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