A Big Mixed Message

Moving away from the juggling analogy (Juggling and the Christian Life), where the perceptions of an error and it’s effect on participants can be clearly dealt with, let us concentrate on the discussed similarities in the Christian life. Here the lines are less distinct and divorcing oneself from the effects more difficult.

In comparing our perception of our personal walk with the Lord and the expectations directed at us from others in the guise of responsibilities (read that as optics), let us look for the end game. That would be the conflicting messages often propagated not only by non-believers, but in churches, and then adopted by extension through others in the Body.

Observation would indicate that the delivery of these contradictory messages is both consistent and common, with no surface indication that the deliverers have any insight into the conflict being communicated. That in itself is hard to fathom.

What am I talking about, you ask?

A believer is frequently exhorted to always act in a manner that will reflect wonderfully on the church and show the joy of Christian life. It is made a ‘responsibility’ of the believer by implication to show that conversion will bring clear outward indication of the “hope that is within us”. This demonstration is to draw the non-believer to see the value in conversion in the joy of the believer. This is certainly what the Lord said at various times, but the way it is interpreted in the Christian community can be a problem.

At the same time, the same believer is warned that the necessary correction, calling to attention of problems, pruning and regrowth of character, etc. will involve often great difficulty in life. This will at times render the believer rebellious and struggling, all for the glory of the Lord as the development later bears fruit, but nonetheless problematic at the time. In a nutshell, we often resist change and act badly in the throws of it. Since these are often big changes, the associated difficulties and behavioural struggles may also be big.

Do you see the problem?

On the one hand one is to act perfectly and reflect the beauty of thier calling, being made to feel guilty if they were to do otherwise. At the same time, one is exhorted to embrace difficult change in the clear realization that you may initially react and/or act badly. This is a Catch 22, and there must be fundamental error somewhere in the interpretation active in this situation.

I do not propose to have the complete answer, but part of it must be in the safety of the irresistible Effectual Calling of the elect. We are indeed called to preach the Gospel to the unsaved. But we are call to do it from where we are now – where our Lord has placed us. We may be fraught with problems and not act the best, but that is who we are in the Lord at that time. And that is okay! The Calling is His.

The responsibility for the conversion of others is the Lord’s, not ours. Not even a little bit is ours! If they are to be called, then they can not successfully resist any more that we can be other than who we are, in His process, at that moment. If the truth of us in the Lord meets with them, then we are presenting exactly what the Lord intended, irrespective of what a bystander might think. And they WILL be called if it is His will.

So to those who proposed that the believer put on a perfect face, presenting things in a better light – get over it. We are certainly called to reflect the Lord to the best of our ability, but that is as ourselves, as we are now. We may be rejoicing in his Calling but still not rejoicing in life at that moment. Some may say that is what they are saying. Possibly true, but from the pews what is often being ‘heard’ is the precursor to personal guilt and stress. That is error, plain and simple, and does not further the Kingdom

All Glory to our Lord.

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4 Responses to “A Big Mixed Message”

  1. cnaphan says:

    I know a former pastor who legally smokes marijuana to relieve chronic pain. Oh, what a bad reputation that man endures from his fellow Christians! What gossip! Yet, how similar to the “crime” of healing on the Sabbath it is. It’s like the church community inwardly thinks “Now, if I don’t throw a stone at this fellow, everyone will know I have sins myself, and that’s bad for our church.”

    Is there anyone who cared less what others thought of them than our dear Lord? He was baptized yet was sinless, did penance yet had nothing to repent of, fraternized with outcasts and foreigners, ate with sinners, broke civic rules regarding the Sabbath, was mocked and died a criminal’s death, yet was the Evangelist to the evangelists! Shame on us, sinful and weak, who cringe at being thought less than perfect!

  2. kwilson says:

    Thanks for your comments. We are indeed burdened to represent the Lord well and to put the Kingdom forward in the best way we know how, but as ourselves, in whatever place the Lord has put us. That means our utmost effort to be obedient in all respects, but nonetheless may not make us appear either perfect nor even happy at times.

    The problem occurs when it is implied that one should somehow be other than themselves in order to cast a better light.

    The Lord will draw His own to Himself, and who can know what the situational requirements for that are. Even our difficulties and visible struggles, assuming that they represent sincerely Christian effort, will be used. They are in fact part of the process.

    I do not in this instance have any particular situation or experience in mind, just observation over time of the exhortations in the church (generically speaking) and within Christain community to always ‘act’ to put the best face forward to non-believers. It is often said that they are watching, and strongly implied that their future may be determined by what they see. In the face of Devine Sovereignty this latter implication is incorrect, and that is the root of problem.

  3. cnaphan says:

    Francis de Sales says on this:
    “Reputation, after all, is but a signboard giving notice where virtue dwells, and virtue itself is always and everywhere preferable. Therefore, if it is said that you are a hypocrite because you are professedly devout, or if you are called a coward because you have forgiven an insult, despise all such accusations. Such judgments are the utterances of foolish men, and you must not give up what is right, even though your reputation suffer, for fruit is better than foliage, that is to say, an inward and spiritual gain is worth all external gains. We may take a jealous care of our reputation, but not idolise it; and while we desire not to displease good men, neither should we seek to please those that are evil.

    Let us keep Jesus Christ Crucified always before our eyes; let us go on trustfully and simply, but with discretion and wisdom, in His Service, and He will take care of our reputation; if He permits us to lose it, it will only be to give us better things, and to train us in a holy humility, one ounce of which is worth more than a thousand pounds of honour. If we are unjustly blamed, let us quietly meet calumny with truth; if calumny perseveres, let us persevere in humility; there is no surer shelter for our reputation or our soul than the Hand of God. Let us serve Him in good report or evil report alike, with Saint Paul;so that we may cry out with David, “For Thy Sake have I suffered reproof, shame hath covered my face.”

    Of course certain crimes, so grievous that no one who can justify himself should remain silent, must be excepted; as, too, certain persons whose reputation closely affects the edification of others. In this case all theologians say that it is right quietly to seek reparation.”

  4. kwilson says:

    Wonderful quotes! This gets me thinking about a couple of other areas that need exploring, but I think that they deserve their own threads. The first will likely be the desparate need for more preaching and edification on doctrine in the church today. It seems as if we are more and more becoming a community of pragmatic approaches to growth, but without a substance of the fundamentals. That is, IMO, a wrong and shortsighted view…

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