The Church Learns From The World
The pertinent question to ask is: Is the world through
grace teaching the churches or are the churches teaching
the world? The case is often that the world has to teach
the church vital spiritual things it should know but does
not because it is too creed bound and hide bound.
Let me give you an example of this. Christianity had
to be taught toleration by the world. What should have been
obvious to Christians was not because the church was so
overwhelmingly overly creedal, arrogant, and locked inside
the limitations of theological intellectualism.
The early Christian church under the intellectual
leadership of Augustine of Hippo said, “if you love them,
burn them.” The idea was creedal heresy was bad, so bad it
was best to burn those who were heretics to protect
society from them. The creedal egotism of the church
was such that it agreed. The great Inquisitions began.
Heretics were burned at the stake. Was this Christianity
at its worst? Well, that remains to be judged in a history
of spiritual ups and downs. There are some bad “worst's.”
To burn those different creedally was enormously aided
by the political theory that a kingdom might have or contain
only one religion. (You may see this attitude remaining in the
idea the world may have or contain only one type of political
structure. Everyone is required to be of only one basic political
persuasion. Human sins change not, but simply transfers to
different flags and symbols to cluster round. The controversy
God has with mankind is not the change in symbols, but in always
regrouping in the same sinful attitudes behind changed symbols.
History becomes a re-presentation of new symbols to hide behind, while attracting the old sins. The same sins go on as symbols change.
For years in Western History nations and religions killed,
outlawed, maimed and terrorized those with new symbols or new
religions. Finally in America and some other nations, so
many new religions became evident that the governments resigned
themselves to toleration. Gradually the different churches,
religions and denominations caught on. Toleration became
widely accepted. But it had little to do with the churches. The
world had to teach the the churches toleration.
What should have been obvious in the beginning from Christ, was if you loved your neighbor, it was not the loving thing to burn
him or her alive for a two penny worth of religious difference
or any new symbol change. Or, for that matter, any other type
of difference. But Christians were too creed bound to make
the first priority in religion love instead of creed.
The point I am trying to make is that sometimes the
world has to teach churches grace. As church leadership
seems to be a sanctimonious lot, I find the world enjoys
greatly the process of teaching churches virtues they should
be practicing anyway. But today who is teaching what to whom?
Churches have no monopoly on grace. Common grace acting
upon the world teaches churches nearly, I think, as much or
more than the nearly empty churches of England and Europe
or the pitiful secular churches of America who see God’s
Kingdom as raising money for bigger parking lots.
As we observe things, let us evaluate if God may be using
the world to teach the church or if the church is teaching
God to the world. Churches tend to be so wrapped up in
themselves they become churchy. They become so involved in their
own prosperity as organizations, they tend to overlook and
forget the purposes that justify them as organizations: to serve
the people, the brothers and sisters of Christ, and carry the
Bible to those who know of God in a superficial way but have
not experienced the grace of God in depth, or Christ
in a personal manner. I pray God that you will find Christ.
You will know Him when He comes to select you, just as surely as
the Apostles in Galilee did. It was not by Jesus’ physical
presence only that they knew who He was. Mere physical presence would not have made them follow Him. His was a spiritually new magnetic awareness, silently summoning them. His was a calling
that something deep inside quietly acknowledged. They turned.
They followed Him. Some life deep in them answered Life. The
spirit called to the spirit. “I AM” called to “I want to be.”
An Invisible Risen Jesus Christ walks the earth. Many saints
and holy ones testify to this. When God finds you, you will
not have to see Him. You will recognize His Spirit. You will
feel His Personality radiating grace. You will be able to turn
your life around and follow Him. Your new life will have
started. A deeper and better spiritual life will have begun in
you. Why? You will have decided to follow Jesus.
Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.