Wayne's Worldview is a place to share my unique perspective of the world as formed from my interpretation of the scriptures and my experience as a Christian. As a pastor, I am asked a lot of questions about current issues, life dilemmas, personal problems, politics, biblical interpretation...etc.I offer these "How I see it" thoughts in effort to challenge people to think about their worldview, and to stimulate good conversations that will help us become more whole.
Welcome to the conversation.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I've Been Hurt by the Church

I find myself having a the same conversation with a lot of different people about being hurt by the church. Sometimes it's members of my church, sometimes its from people sharing their story of another church.

As a pastor,I have no dissolutions about the church. And anyone who is a long standing member of Christ’s church will agree with me... Church life is a messy business. Life is messy, both inside and outside the church and the church doesn’t function very well much of the time. But, is this God's fault? It is, what it is, so let's not kid ourselves about the nature of the church and our sinful nature. There is nothing new under the sun. It was the same for Israel in the OT as it is for us today in the church. We hinder the work of God at every turn. So, what do we do when we find ourselves on the receiving end of the sin ledger?

We can complain, point fingers, make accusations, leave the church or a multitude of other things. But, what should we do? I think it is helpful to recall Christ’s words from the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Who were they? The ones who persecuted the prophets? They were the people of Israel, not other nations. If we expect the church to be without sin and strife, the deception is just as great as us believing that we ourselves are without sin.

Praise God that our hope is not the church, our hope is Christ, in the church. The only redeeming thing about the church is that Christ is in it. Our hobbies, escapes, possessions, entertainments…etc can be redeemed by God, but they come to us spoiled, and don’t proclaim the good news of our salvation. His love does however, miraculously emerge from time to time, through faithful, God fearing saints, who by the grace of God have been nurtured in this same church. His love miraculously breaks through despite the dysfunctional, sin laden state of Christ’s body.

Christ's love may come from one person as a word of encouragement, or from another as a revelation of God’s truth that is heard above the fray. His love came through the people of Israel, despite their great sins, and God accomplished his work on the cross. And our great assurance is that he will also accomplish all his purposes through the church. It is truly a mystery, how God continues to use the church- his sinful children, to proclaim his truth. Oh that we would be more faithful in carrying it out.

It is sometimes easy to get into a weird kind of blame game in the church. I’ve observed it and I have been guilty of it. Our great adversary, the devil, works us from both sides. He assists us in sinning against one another, by breaking God’s commands, always taking more notice of someone elses sin than our own, and then he causes us to find fault in Christ’s “Church.” Satan two, God zero, just the way he likes it. We can break the cycle by being obedient to the Lord of the church, admitting and confessing our own sin, and forgiving others who have sinned against us. (Sounds like a familiar prayer we say together in church doesnt' it?)

None of us come to the church sinless. We all contribute to its current state. We only make it worse by becoming bitter or angry at “the church”. There are a lot of people in the world that have isolated themselves from Jesus, because of the failures of the people in the church. There are others who go from church to church looking for one that loves more pure. They find one…, for a time, until the honeymoon ends and discover that yes, this church is as bad, as the last.

Believers have to remember that it’s not Christ in the church that hurts us, but the sinful people in the church that cause such great harm. We must guard our hearts, and be careful to forgive and not become bitter, because we most certainly have hurt others in Christ’s church with our sins. Not only will the Lord reward us for this, but the church we attend will become one with love a bit more pure.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Chrisian View of the Sanctity of Life

As January is Sanctity of Life month and “abortion rights” are again in the news as part of the health care legislation, it is especially important that Christians are aware of our tradition, and what the Bible teaches. Abortion has been practiced in every culture from ancient times. One of the great achievements of the spread of the gospel in the Greco-Roman world was to greatly diminish the practice of abortion and infanticide. In classical paganism, abortion (like euthanasia) was common and widely approved. The ancient physicians who took the Hippocratic Oath, whose medical vision was powered by saving life and not taking it, were the exception, not the rule. The pro-life movement truly began when the church of Jesus Christ swept through the Roman world, setting standards in medicine, culture, and public policy. That influence held fast in the western world until the naturalist philosophy, and Darwinian evolution theory displaced the predominant Christian view of man. The devaluing of human life set the stage for the practice of abortion to re-emerge.
If you look for abortion in a concordance you won’t find it, as that term was not used by the people of that day, but scripture is not silent on the subject. The biblical foundations for prohibition on induced abortion are found in the doctrines of creation and incarnation. The starting point for a biblical understanding of human nature is the truth that human beings are created in God’s image (imago Dei). It is clear from Genesis 1:26–27 that human beings, are distinguished from all other creatures (kinds), by our bearing the likeness of our Maker. The image applies to Jew and Gentile, religious and irreligious, young and old. The issue here is not complex. If someone is human, that person bears the divine image and his or her life is sacred. It’s genetic. With this single recognition, we find our answer. This foundation underlies the commandment “Do not murder” (Ex 20:13) and provides a straightforward response to abortion, because it applies to all human beings, from the beginning of life to its end. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, his blood shall be shed by man, for God made man in His image.”) This teaching is also of central importance in the use of human embryos for research and cloning. There is only one position one can take from the scriptures: those who are human are made in the divine image and should not be murdered.
The second foundation lies in the doctrine of the incarnation. As we have just celebrated Christmas, we remember that the incarnation of the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, took human form and did so from the beginning of human biological existence. He did not just come as a man, the incarnation began with conception. Mary was told by the angel that she would conceive by a miracle, the human life of the Son of God. Shortly afterward she visited Elizabeth, where John the Baptist’s first testimony to his kinsman and Lord is given. As a six month fetus, he leaped in his mother’s womb at the presence of the days-old embryonic Jesus (Lk 1:39–45).
With the theological foundations of imago Dei, and the incarnation, the many references to unborn life in the prophets, Job, and especially Psalms take on powerful significance. As an exercise, read Psalms 139 with these two doctrines in mind.
Like the physicians who originally took the Hippocratic Oath, we Christians find ourselves going against the cultural current. If we are to prevail in this debate, it will be through the spread of the Gospel. When a majority again submits to the authority of God’s word, rather than men’s, the culture and public policy will change.