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Worse than Nothing, Part 3

Posted By on December 30, 2017

 

 by Teri Ong 

 [This is the third of three posts about abandoning attendance in a local church congregation. If you are reading this and getting a little uncomfortable about your own practices in regard to building up the Body of Christ, I only have one suggestion: go to Scripture and the Lord for yourself and see what He would have you do on a regular basis. We, as American Christians, are so spoiled by our ease and affluence; perhaps we need to take some time out for honest self-evaluation.  

This post picks up our imaginary round table discussion where we left of in Part Two.] 

 Wounded:I don’t think I’m being vindictive, and I do love God! But you are right about disasters. 

 Moderator:Apostle John, what do you think about that? 

 John:If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (1 John 4:20-21) 

 Wounded:We don’t hate the people who have hurt us. We still love them, but we just can’t trust them not to hurt us again. We don’t want to be around them. Frankly, we are afraid. 

 Moderator:That’s an interesting idea. Would you think your husband loves you very much if he didn’t want to live in the same house with you? Or what about your children? What would you think if they wanted to move out and live with other friends? 

 John:You may be deceived in your understanding of what true Christian love is. “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:16-19) 

 Moderator:When we think about how much God has forgiven in us, it should make it easier to forgive others. If God could love us, we should be able to love fellow believers. 

 Wounded:But every time we have tried to go back and be part of a church body, we’ve been hurt again. How many times do we have to go through the same thing? 

Peter:I had the same question for Jesus when we were together on earth. I thought I was being very generous to offer forgiveness up to seven times. But He told us we had to forgive up to seventy times seven. (Matt. 18:22) Sometimes I thought I could take advantage of a technicality if I could just find the four hundred and ninety-first offense. But I know Jesus would want me to forgive that one too. I know my list of offenses toward Jesus was much longer than 491, and He always forgave me, and He didn’t give up on restoring me to fellowship and ministry. (John 21:15f) 

 Wounded:But it’s so much easier to go it alone, like the song writer said, “Just Jesus and Me,” you know. 

 Moderator:Easier isn’t always better when it comes to growing up in the Lord. Paul, what do you think? 

 Paul:I implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,  being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:1-3) 

 C.S. Lewis: May I interject on this subject, please? 

 Moderator: Please do, Mr. Lewis! 

 C.S.Lewis: It is easy to get into slothful habits under the guise of legitimacy. “When I first became a Christian…I thought that I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and I wouldn’t go to the churches and gospel halls; and then later I found that this was the only way of flying your flag. (5) [8-9] 

 Wounded:What do you mean, “flying your flag?” 

 John:I think I know what he means. Jesus told us, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35) 

 C.S. Lewis: That’s what I meant precisely. But “of course, I found that [flying my flag] meant being a target. It is extraordinary how inconvenient to your family it becomes for you to get up early to go to church. It doesn’t matter much if you get up early for anything else, but if you get up early to go to church it’s very selfish of you and you upset the house.” [8-9] 

 Wounded:Then isn’t it more loving to stay home and not upset the house? 

 C.S. Lewis: The question whether we are loving God or the earthly Beloved “more” is not, so far as concerns our Christian duty, a question about the comparative intensity of two feelings. The real question is, which (when the alternative comes) do you serve, or choose, or put first? 

A man, said Jesus, who tries to serve two masters, will “hate” the one and “love” the other. It is not, surely, mere feelings of aversion and liking that are here in question. He will adhere to, consent to, work for the one and not for the other. (6) 

 Wounded:But I’m not choosing between God and my family; I’m choosing between church and my family. At least, that’s the way I see it. 

 C.S.Lewis: What is hard for all is to know when the occasion for such “hating” has arisen. Our temperaments deceive us. The meek and tender– uxorious husbands, submissive wives, doting parents, dutiful children– will not easily believe that it has ever arrived. (6) 

 Moderator:It seems that God is always working with us to reveal what is truly in our hearts by having us make such choices. 

 Wounded:But I thought church was supposed to be a “safe space.” 

 Moderator:That is a very silly 21st century notion. Being a Christian has never been “safe.” It is more safe for you in America than it has been at any other time or in any other place. And it has made you very soft. Jesus told His disciples to expect persecution. (John 15:18-19) 

 Wounded:But we shouldn’t be hurt by our brothers and sisters in Christ! 

 Moderator:That is the way things should be, and the way things will be when the true church is perfected in heaven. But I have to say, every letter written to a church recorded in the New Testament was written to address some dire problem. 

 Wounded:I thought they were written to tell us how to live the Christian life. 

 Paul:That is partially true. They were written to teach believers how to live the Christian life on this earth, where conditions are never perfect. I had to admonish churches about false teaching and all sorts of sinful behavior in the church, including drunkenness, gluttony, immorality, prejudice, disrespect, evil speaking, and sins that aren’t even common among unbelievers. (1 Cor. 5:1) I could only compare some of these types of people to lions and wolves. (Acts 20:29) That does not sound “safe,” and it never has been. But that is how we learn to rely on our Savior more fully. 

 Wounded:I think there are things God may ask or even command us to do, but He doesn’t really expect that we will do them. After all, He knows that we are sinners. He remembers we are dust. He knows we are weak. There are things that are just too hard to give up– like family events. There are ideas that are too hard to give up– like our family convictions. There are offenses that are too hard to forgive. 

 Jesus: Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me? (Jer. 32:27) 

 Wounded:Lord! 

 Jesus:I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.  ‘Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. ‘So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.  ‘But you have a few people…who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. ‘ He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. ‘ He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’  (Rev. 3:1-6) 

 If there is no church good enough for you, you are saying that every church within an acceptable radius of your home is worse than nothing. 

The Lord speaking to many professing Christians in the 21st century church in America might sound like this: 

21 ” Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  22 ” Many will say to Me on that day, 

 “Didn’t we stay home in your name?Didn’t we feed our family on canned sermons and quick-serve devotionals? Didn’t we protect ourselves and our own from being hurt by prickly, hypocritical saints? Didn’t we teach our children to be discerning about people who don’t see things the way we do, in your name?” 

   23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’  (Matthew 7:21-23) 

 

 A Reflection by William Cowper

 

And is this all? Can Reason do no more, 

Than bid me shun the deep, and dread the shore? 

Sweet moralist! Afloat on life’s rough sea, 

The Christian has an art unknown to thee. 

He holds no parley* with unmanly fears; 

Where Duty bids, he confidently steers, 

Faces a thousand dangers at her call, 

And, trusting in his God, surmounts them all. 

*conference between opposing sides 

 

References:[Field] 

(1) Cowper, William. Poems. London: J. Johnson, 1808. In the preface by John Newton, p. i.x. 

 

(2) Paton, John.  John G. Paton. Banner of Truth, 1965 reprint. 

 

(3) Murray, John. Adapted from his biography 

 

(4) Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Discovery House Publishers, cr. 1963. Date references for the specific quotations are in brackets. 

 

(5) Lewis, C. S. The Inspirational Writings of C. S. Lewis. New York: Inspirational Press, 1994. In The Business of Heaven. Dates listed in brackets. 

 

(6) Lewis, C. S. The Inspirational Writings of C. S. Lewis. New York: Inspirational Press, 1994. In The Four Loves, p. 279, 280. 

 

Scripture references are from the NASU. 


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