There is a splintering occurring, and I see this more internationally than nationally, though nationally the transition is occurring at light speed. The splinter factions are from within the church itself — mainly the visible church. This is why I feel Christianity is on a collision course with itself. Every person believing upon Christ will, in the final days, be asked to take a side. And in taking a side we will side against Christ. In taking a side we will side against love. And having said that, we will find it almost impossible not to take a side. These are heady days!
My question is, are these the last days of Christianity? Not the church, nor Christians, nor faith… but of Christianity — as we have come to know and refer to it. Are we now not tearing ourselves apart because of the divisive methods we engage in that take us far from love — its own wisdom?
There seems to be so much debate these days as to gender, sexuality, among a range of other things ethically, and sin — as if issues we may have come to feel definitely wedded to in our identities couldn’t or shouldn’t be called sin, even if they are wrong. We feel we’re beyond sin or sinning; that it’s an offence to call something that people feel strongly about, or entitled to, “sinful.”
Sin is an ugly word these days. It should have always been, but since the grace of God’s gospel rained down on us from heaven through the cross and resurrection, sin and the devil no longer have a sovereign word; God does. Sin merely highlights God’s goodness; His grace, ours! But what is the gospel to us if we do not believe we’re sinners? Then we have no need of Christ and the good news of God. We choose our own salvation and become, of choose, our own saviours.
If we hope to go on in our relationship with God our sin will always be central and others’ more peripheral. Yet as soon as our own sin becomes less apparent, so does our relationship with God become less apparent, and where His grace in our lives is less apparent, what becomes more noticeable are other people’s sins. Then we begin to take sides…
And depart from God and His will for our lives, which is that we would relate with Him.
The very point of this most urgent time is not to take a side. When we take sides we have chosen to love an allegiance. We have forgotten that it is for people that we love. It may seem we choose His Word or Christ Himself when we take a side, but side-taking is, of itself, a betrayal of Christ and His Word.
We venture forth a view, that, because truth is unambiguous, we must be unambiguous, but truth is God’s, not ours, and much truth (that we don’t and can’t see) will only be revealed when we meet God. This is not a matter of siding with postmodernity — that monstrosity of the abstract — either. We opt not to commit to having a view, because that view might be a deceived view; a view that, in its portrayal, betrays love when we, in fact, have endeavoured to love. Just because we advocate for truth doesn’t mean we always hit love’s mark — most of the time we advocate for truth we miss love’s mark! So much relational damage has been inflicted because we advocated for the truth. We’re in territory where love and wisdom merge and fuse in God.
The taking of sides and the holding of views is tenuous, because we don’t know when those views skew into sin. Even a good thing, done for a good reason, can turn sinful.
Transcending side-taking, love holds out for a higher purpose, seeking to see as God sees.
And yet we cannot afford to miss the truth by venturing naively into tall stories.
The greatness of God is how He compels us to look honestly at ourselves. We’re naked in the garden, and, knowing He’s there, we pretend, “There’s nothing to see here! All is as You would have it, just as You designed it, Lord!” He watches on and simply says, “Really?” We cannot and will never fool God, and more fool us if we are so self-deceived to let our lies be. We cannot reverse the events of the fall, but thankfully God has reversed its consequences.
We have the conscience implicit of being bearers of His image, yet, to the very same intrinsic extent, we cannot go close to living up to the expectations such an image would hold us to.
We’re all tellers of tall stories.
We’re all sinners, not a single one better than the worst of us.
LGBT people are merely poignant examples of all of us who are all equally poignant sinners.
The fact that many pious people rail against these truths shoots home the point; we’re all too easily offended these days.
Quick offence is the end of our Christianity.
Christians who cannot own their own sin will be the first to take offence and, therefore, to take a side, believing so quickly their own, and others’, tall stories — if they attend only to their own biases. Sides will cancel themselves out. And there will be similar numbers on both sides. And tall stories vanish into the ether as if they never were, because they never were. All this side-taking may end Christianity as we know it; our human hope of seeing Christ’s Kingdom come through us. But it won’t be the end of the Church. The Church transcends humanity’s Christianity. The Church is God’s. This is a testing time. God watches on and His Church is alive and well as it’s always been. God is absolutely Sovereign.
Those who take offence cannot love, and those who cannot love are not truly of God. Those who take a side miss the point. Loving people happens independent of the biases we have. The biases hold us open to sin. Whether we’re pro-LGBT or anti-LGBT is irrelevant. If we straddle the fence is also irrelevant. If we’re vocal about either we miss the point. If we’re ‘pro’ we attempt to dispel God’s concern for sin. If we’re ‘anti’ we miss the opportunity to see as God sees.
And love is a most confused concept. Love is tougher than we think, yet it never misses a compassionate beat. Love is truth in action, for love never advocates for a lie. But love is a rebuke that sheets home a message with respectful meekness — “a bruised reed he will not break” (Isaiah 42:3).
Will we own our own sin, seeing God’s more interested in that than our taking of sides?
If we can relate with God, and allow His Spirit to speak very personally to us, side-taking won’t find a place on our agenda. And God will be pleased.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.