Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. I Corinthians 13:12
There is so much wrong with our public discourse these days, even among Christians…maybe especially among Christians. The arrogance, the tribalism, and the mere screaming across the cultural divide (as if adding a little outrage to my message will make it more convincing) is just sickening to me. Maybe it is to you as well.
I have no idea what mirrors looked like back when Paul wrote these words to the church in Corinth. But I’m certain they weren’t as good then as they are now. I rather suspect that the image in the reflection was pretty poor, maybe like looking at your reflection on the back of a silver spoon. However their mirrors worked then, one thing is clear: Paul is telling us that our state of “knowing” spiritual things is pretty poor on this side of Heaven.
For me, this is a truth which keeps me humble, especially when I am discussing theology or scriptural interpretations or even more general matters of God. Whatever it is I think I know, however certain I think I am, I must hold even that certainty with a healthy dose of humility. And when I lose that humility, I lose my ability to influence those who might disagree with me. By that I mean that any hope of conveying that truth to anyone not already inclined to listen is lost.
I sometimes think that we in the evangelical church have convinced ourselves that our job is to persuade. We act as though the gospel, despite its inherent power, somehow needs our polished communication skills …
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15-16
Does it matter whether or not Paul was in fact the “foremost sinner” before coming to Christ? Or, is the more important point that he perceived himself as such? Yeh, I think so too. It is the self-perception on this issue which matters most.
I think two of the biggest problems for most Christ-followers today is (1) having a false sense of who God is, and (2) having a false sense of who we are without him. The gospel is difficult in the American culture because there are so many in this culture who, frankly, do not feel the need for a savior. What’s worse, the church has become less effective as those of us in the church have tended to forget for ourselves just how desperately we need a savior. Still.
Churches, you see, can have a false sense of self just as well as individuals…we can actually stop remembering who we are without God. We can get so wrapped up in “doing church” that we lose sight of what matters most. Specifically, here are five ways I have seen us have a false sense of self…here are some lies we sometimes believe about our church:
1. We’re better because our music/preaching/buildings/programming/resources are better. Truth is, we are probably not better at all. ButIF we are better, it is only because of the work of the Spirit among us. All the stuff we do…is just stuff. …
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Matthew 6:1
People who do not want anything to do with the church often accuse it of being “full of hypocrites”. I have a theory about why they say that…
I have at least a couple of observations about Jesus’ words above..observations that apply directly to us as church leaders.
1. This is not a word for you to apply to someone else…this is a Word from Jesus to you ABOUT YOU. Even though I do get it wrong from time to time, I consider myself a student of grammar. With all due respect to Mrs. Harris, Mrs. Stephens and Mrs. Seitz (my first three English teachers in high school) it was Ms. Peak, my 12th-grade English teacher who really convinced me that good grammar and good communication are related. So let’s take the English translation of Jesus’ sentence in Matthew 6:1 and do some simple diagramming, shall we? (Is there anyone else out there who remembers diagramming sentences?)
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.”
Anybody know the subject of that sentence? Anybody?
If you said the subject is implied and that it is an implied “You”…you get a gold star for today! This is a word to “You”. It is not a word about “them” or about “him” or “her”. It is for you, and it is about you.
I once heard someone say that God’s Word is always more effective as a mirror than as a magnifying glass. I love that concept. It is perfect. I believe we would all become better scholars of Biblical …
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16
Step 5: We admit to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]
I grew up feeling sorry for my Catholic friends because they had to confess their sins to a priest. It seemed to me that such a thing would be the most awful experience in the world. My particular faith community taught me that, when it came to confession, I did not need an intermediary…I could confess my sins straight to God. To be honest, I liked that a lot more, because it was easier to fool myself into believing I had actually confessed to God than it would ever have been to fool a priest. I could go and spend a few moments thinking about my various wrong-doings and thinking about God, and maybe even whisper a few words to God about it all, and then leave feeling like I had done the whole confession thing. Problem solved. Easy to fool myself!
But it’s not that easy when there is a human being on the other end of the confession who can ask you questions for clarification and can make you say the actual words…out loud…describing what you did and who can tell you when they think you’re not “owning” your fault. That, to me, is a less flexible and less manipulatable process. It is very much like the difference …