Lean to the right

My views haven’t changed since yesterday.

I’m guessing that yours haven’t either; at least, not foundationally. But that’s okay. I didn’t write yesterday to change anyone’s views. Believe it or not.

Yes, I know this one only has 48 stars. Watch the Red Skelton video.I still hate what politics has become.

I still hate that the two-party system has morphed United States politics into oppositional extremism.

I still mourn the lack of ethic or consistent rules and familiarity with the Constitution (and I am no Constitutional authority; just a citizen. With a computer. And a will to go look things up to be sure, on reputable and dependable sites that make a sincere attempt at accuracy and objectivity.)

I still have no interest in playing the game when it’s rigged against all of us.

And I still will not wear a party label, even though I lean a bit to the left.

So now I will go ahead and lose more friends:

I also lean to the right.

I lean to the right, just a little, because I am an American. I find that the functional bedrock of the right is responsibility and loyalty and maintaining a national identity that is based on a common set of values expressed in the Constitution. When the right’s methodology errs, it usually errs on the side of caution. It is based on solidarity without uniformity.

I find that the functional modus operandi of the left is freewheeling freedom, uncautious optimism and a general tolerance for just about anything (even if it puts the stability of the economy, budget or other security at risk). It frequently operates with little self-discipline or introspection. It is based on diversity without commonality.

I know that this is not the way the left would describe itself in more lofty and admirable terms. But that is how the results come out when carried to extremes. And even today as opposed to yesterday, everything is always carried to extremes.

If we want to address problems like too much abortion being chosen, we need to take personal responsibility to get personally involved in the lives of people making that choice and offer alternatives, be willing to give, be willing to provide, be willing to just get involved. Be a foster parent. Adopt. Donate to and support adoption centers. Support businesses that care about employees. Don’t expect government to be responsible for taking the tax dollars from citizens who oppose abortions to fund abortions against their will and conscience.

Again, that’s the subject for another post or series of posts.

And I will be the first to admit that, even as an adoptive parent and supporter of an adoption agency, I have not done all that I could or should to assist hurting and helpless people as I should. I can do better. We all can do better.

So I lean to the left. A little. Because I am a follower of Christ, and called to compassion.

And I lean to the right. A bit. Because I am an American, and we are one nation that should have some common values to which we ascribe.

I think I always have been a little of both. I suspect I always will be.

And I would be willing to bet that many of you reading this are split within your individual selves on issues, way beyond abortion that I’ve used as an example. Some of you are also split within your families. And your churches. And your neighborhoods. And your places of employment, your cities and towns, your states.

At least some of you are conflicted, right now, reading this. –Even if you don’t agree with any of the perceptions or opinions I’ve expressed in this post or yesterday’s.

So let me ask: why are so many of us willing to sell out our souls to a party whose ideology and means of achieving it are not consistent with everything or even most of what we believe in; a political party that doesn’t consistently produce candidates of good character and repute and capability?

I know some of you will think, “But I do agree with everything my party does and stands for! The other party is evil and heinous and ought to be wiped out at the polls at every election!” That’s fine. You just go on deluding yourself and letting the rich folks who contribute heavily set all your Party policies for you so you don’t have to think or worry about it. I’m not talking to you.

I’m talking to the folks who are still reading (even if fuming) who are willing to think for themselves, be honest within themselves, and commit to something better. I’m talking to people who will drop the pretense and the party-first mentality and the divisiveness and the defensiveness and the anger and the judgment and all of the associated crap.

I’m talking to people who might be willing to talk, listen, ask questions, dialogue, sharpen each other, understand, be open, re-think, respect and insist on better than what we have now. I wish to heaven I knew what form that would take. Maybe it’s a third non-party of Moderates or Collaborators or unlabeled independents. Maybe it’s getting more actively involved in the process, pushing the parties to better or at least more tenable positions; even to the point of running for office. Maybe it’s nothing more than people willing to go against the two-party-headed Hydra and write or call or inspire others — all the while insisting on something more and better than whatever rich and influential people want us to vote for to make them richer and more influential. I don’t know what it is.

I just know that what we have ain’t working, because we ain’t working together … and that something’s gotta change — and SOON.

(Comments are also closed on this one. I’m not in this for the debate. I’m not here to start a party or attack or defend yours. I just want to stimulate some thought and a little bit of righteous indignation over the fact that we’ve all been played.)

Lean to the left

I hate politics.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I know I’ve said it for years, but it’s not quite on-the-mark.

Yes, I know this one only has 48 stars. Watch the Red Skelton video.Politics, simply defined, means:

  • activities that relate to influencing the actions and policies of a government or getting and keeping power in a government

  • the work or job of people (such as elected officials) who are part of a government

  • the opinions that someone has about what should be done by governments : a person’s political thoughts and opinions (Merriam-Webster)

Politics is just a necessary part of government, and especially self-government.

I hate what politics has become. I hate what a two-party system has morphed politics into in the United States: oppositional extremism, where the filthiest words in Washington are  “collaboration,” “cooperation,” “compromise,” “statesmanship” and “integrity.”

Politics has become gamesmanship rather than statesmanship. The only goal is for party ideology to win; not for the country to win or for the people to be best governed; just for one party to win over the other.

It’s as if the old junior high school cheer has become our new national anthem: “Lean to the left! Lean to the right! Stand up! Sit down! Fight-fight-fight!”

And there are no rules about the fight any longer. If rules become inconvenient, the majority side suspends or repeals them. There is no ethic to govern the behavior of candidates or elected officials or appointees. There isn’t even a basic familiarity with the Constitution and how government works in order to guide the process. No rules. Anything it takes … to win.

The result is:

  • If you don’t pick a side, you’re unpatriotic.
  • If you refuse to vote because the choices you’re offered are unacceptable, then everything unacceptable that happens afterward is your fault.
  • If you think for yourself, you are dangerous and untrustworthy.

Well, I refuse to play that damned game anymore.

In a game where rules are optional, nobody wins.

There are planks of platforms in both major parties and a couple of minor parties that I agree with and fully support.

But there is no one party that unfailingly and unflinchingly represents what is best for the people of the United States. Both are sold out to ideology. Both are sold out to special interests. Both have sold their souls for political contributions because the goal is winning.

So I’m not Republican or Democrat or Libertarian or Green or Socialist or any other convenient categorizing label.

I’m me.

Because “my party right or wrong” is just plain stupid. They’re both wrong about some things and they’re both right about some things and when they won’t cooperate on solutions to the nation’s problems, then everybody suffers.

And here’s the one where I’ll really lose friends:

I lean to the left.

I lean to the left, maybe ever so slightly, because I am a follower of Christ. I find that the underlying ideology of the left seeks the good of others and the entire nation over the good of self, and that is a value I believe to be Christ-like. The underlying ideology of the left is built on sharing and trusting and inclusiveness. It is based on love.

I find that the underlying ideology of the right seeks the good of self and only others who are like oneself or close to oneself. It seeks that benefit over the good of the entire nation and over the good of others, especially others not like oneself; others of different social stratum, or religious belief, or skin color, or income or political ideology. The underlying ideology of the right is built on accumulating and keeping and distrust and exclusiveness. It is based on fear.

That may not be the way that the right’s underlying ideology is expressed in noble terms of earning and self-determination and less government and more security and nationalism and capitalism, but that is how it plays out when carried to its extreme. And these days, everything is carried to its extreme.

Oh, but abortion! some might say; we care about the unborn babies! So do I. I don’t believe the vast majority people who lean to the left are dedicated to being pro-abortion or are “baby-killers.” But in all of the 40+ years since Roe v. Wade, I have yet to see the right or left establish landmark legislation that would genuinely encourage a reduction in the number of abortions; something that recognizes that women are going to be the ones making the choice – not legislators – and that there are a huge number of factors which affect that decision.

That’s the subject of another post entirely, or even a series of posts.

My point would be, if you are voting based on this single issue and ignoring the rest of the issues that surround life in the United States of America and how it is governed, then you are voting like the mythical ostrich … head in the sand.

Because the policies of the left, generally – the policies seeking the good of others above self – are the ones which have been and are likely to be more successful at reducing the number of abortions in our nation: a livable wage, maternity and paternity leave, affordable/accessible health care and child care, public education, hunger prevention, and so on.

Now I would be the first to advocate that most of these should be less the function of government and more the function of church and charity, but the fact is that church and charity aren’t getting it done, and when the call of Christ is for us to look after for each other, I don’t really believe He ever specified or gave a flying flapjack whether the help comes from individuals, from people working together as churches, charities or governments. Just as long as the poor and the disfranchised are included and shown tangible love; that’s all He specified.

So I lean to the left. A little. I think I always have. I suspect I always will.

But I know I will always maintain that the best course for the country will never be down a path of partyism, divisiveness and extremism. That’s what two-and-only-two major parties yields. You can line up all the political sociologists in the world and have them recite together for me, “But that is the natural result in a democratic republic” forever and ever, but what is natural will not make it right for the nation.

Agree or disagree; pile up your arguments and defend your extremist party if you want to.

It won’t change the facts:

  • Division leads to disaster.
  • Bias destroys truth.
  • Power corrupts.
  • We work best when we work together.

We deserve a better United States than our party loyalty yields, and so does the rest of the world.

(Comments are closed on this one. You can play political football somewhere else.)

Are We There Yet?

Today we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, and remember that he was a complex person in a time when hatred was a simple fact. I would say that where he was strongest and most right — and where he was weakest and went most wrong — was his bias toward love.

He was many things: visionary, activist; saint, sinner; minister, martyr.

His world was polarized in a black-versus-white conflict, and he was determined to make us realize that we were all merely different shades of brown, and that the true polarization in the world was between — not black and white — but light and darkness; good and evil; love and hatred.

He took us farther down the path toward love. We have come a long way since he lived, loved, and died.

But we Americans are still polarized. We still choose up sides and smell armpits. We love our President, or we hate him. We love the party that opposes his, or we hate them all. I recognize that much of the difference between political parties is ideological, but most of it is simply partisan, and probably some of it is racial and prejudicial — on both sides of the color extremes.

The fact remains that we have simplified the complex so that we don’t have to cast a vision of unity and actively pursue it. No, it’s much easier to say that “my side is right about everything and therefore good, and anyone who doesn’t agree with us on everything is wrong and evil.”

None of that justifies the venom, the spleen, the gall, the threats, the mass distribution of lies and innuendoes and accusations and outright hatred that we have attached to our sacred rightness.

If you think about Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and ask, “Are we there yet?” the answer is a resounding “no.”

Racism still exists, and while its proportions have been reduced, it is still a horrible reality in a nation where rights for all were declared to trump the rightness of some.

We may have made strides in our battle against racism, but in many ways, we have simply traded black and white for red and blue.

We’ve traded the American dream for just another nightmare.

We owe ourselves, each other, our children, and our children’s children, a few moments to listen to and meditate on the eloquent phrasing of the dream by one of the few visionaries who tried to help make it reality and lost it all for love:

The Argument

There’s quite an argument going on in the comments of one of my previous posts.

I can’t tell you that I have been carefully monitoring it, eager to jump in with just the right “AHA!” that will prove how gloriously intelligent and inspired and above-all-else RIGHT I am.

If you believe that my salvation or yours hangs on being a perfect and omniscient blog moderator on all matters biblical and spiritual, then I am sorry to disappoint you, but certain I am not the first (nor will I be the last) to do so.

Hey, the argument isn’t even about what I posted.

But it does an en exceptionally good job of illustrating the point I had hoped to make.

Both of my beloved arguing brothers is utterly convinced that his interpretation of a number of scriptures supporting his point of view is so inarguably RIGHT and so self-evidently clear and so vitally crucial to the salvation of everyone on this planet that no one who disagrees with it can share in the fellowship of Christ.

The two points of view are different, so they cannot possibly agree and therefore one of them must be wrong and the other must be RIGHT.

The problem with that is that they can be different and still agree; and both could be right (at least to a degree) and both could be totally wrong (by being wrong in part).

And of course, since the nature of God is at issue, the probability of error is extremely high when one point of view is deemed to be wrong because with God nothing is impossible.

If we stuck to scripture without interpreting it, we would all agree that it says Jesus is the Christ and Son of God, who rewards those who diligently seek him, and the things that scripture says about Him are sufficient to lead anyone into a closer relationship with Him and into a life that reflects His glory and story.

But we all interpret. What happens when we start to believe that our interpretations are just as important as scripture – or perhaps even ARE scripture – is the fallacy of self above God, opinion above truth, creed above scripture, arrogance above humility, self-righteousness above grauce, RIGHTness above righteousness, winning above loving.

That is when we fall into the seductive snare of the argument.

And you rarely if ever see anyone emerge victorious by winning a soul over to God’s side … though perhaps you might sometimes see someone who has cowed his adversary over to his own side.

Because we hardly ever argue about what God actually says, but over what we think we know that He meant.

Can good come of an argument?

Sure. When it’s pursued in love, humility and a recognition of the difference between truth and perception; God’s word and man’s doctrine. I think God knows we’re all different and perceive things differently — He did create us this way, after all — and He expects us to disagree and even argue.

I think He expects us to argue like believers, though — and not like those to whom His love is a foreign concept.

Healthy, respectful argument helps bring the Word alive in our minds and hearts, challenging us to dig deep, read, listen and respond in love.

Jesus, John says, came to us full of grace AND truth. Not one or the other, but both, and in perfect balance. He argued — and sometimes strongly, harshly — but He was and is the Son of God. We are not, save through His blood and His righteousness.

And the folks with whom He argued most reprovingly were the ones who were absolutely convinced of their own infallible RIGHTness.

Uniformity – (i) – (form) = Unity

Uniformity - (i) - (form) = UnityI am an unabashedly simple-minded person, and I will will keep this simple so that I will be able to understand it later.

Christians for centuries have mistakenly believed that the way to achieve the unity Jesus prayed for (John 17) is through uniformity.

Wrong. Pretty sure about that. Here’s why I think so:

First of all, unity isn’t ours to achieve, but to maintain (Ephesians 4:3).

Secondly, there has always been room for diversity in the body of Christ, including political opinion. A quick review of the apostles’ views will confirm that; they ranged from tax collector/collaborator to zealot. We are all different members of the body, with differing gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14).

Finally, while there are core beliefs to which every Christian pledges his/her soul, there are other beliefs that are interpretation, which is a churchy way to say “opinion.” There are things that man says and things that Christ says. They don’t always overlap. We’re not always going to agree on opinions; and a short review of Romans 14 will verify that, as well as advise us on how to deal with it.

The real barrier to unity has been our opinions, hasn’t it?

Things like:

  • I know what form of worship should be used.
  • I know what form of atonement was in operation at the cross and the tomb.
  • I know what form the Holy Spirit takes regarding beleivers.
  • I know what form of millennium will shape the future.
  • I know what form of day God meant when describing the span of His creation.

And so on and on and on. No others need apply.

Wow. It really sounds as arrogant as it truly is when I phrase it that way. Yet we’re convinced that we have to – and do – know all the answers in order to have a relationship with God.


This whole walk with Christ is a matter of faith, not knowledge (2 Corinthians 5:7). We have enough knowledge to know who God is, that He loves us, that His Son died for us and lived again so that we could too and that He wants us to live as He lived: humbly, lovingly, self-sacrificingly.

If there’s anything that Job learned from his encounter with the-God-who-showed-up, it’s that you don’t have to know all the answers in order to have a relationship with God (Job 40-42).

So, I’m thinking we don’t have to leave all of our opinions at the church door.

There’s room enough inside for folks who want to believe that God wants to save everyone and will; and for those who want to believe that God wants to save everyone yet won’t.

There’s room enough inside for believers who want to believe we should rejoice that justice was done at the death of Osama Bin Laden and for those who want to mourn yet another soul who did not accept Jesus Christ as Lord.

There’s room enough inside for people who think they know all about God and for those who are just beginning to realize they don’t know much about God at all, but sure want to.

What there isn’t room for is putting up an opinion-poll table next to a crossing gate at the church door and only admitting the folks whose opinions line up with our own.

You see, that violates the very Spirit of the prayer Jesus prayed in the presence of those very diverse disciples on the night He was betrayed by one of them:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

For too many centuries, we believers have clung to the opinion that we’ve all got to be and believe exactly the same thing, down to the last opinion … we’ve been wrong. We’ve divided over opinions. We’ve decided that our right opinions were worth our effectiveness as ambassadors of the one kingdom of the one God through His one Christ.

Being brought to complete unity lies in accepting the simple glory of the simple Christ, a radiance that the simple of heart can see in those who love each other and give themselves up for each other the same way that their Lord did.

(This post is part of the synchroblog inspired by Rachel Held Evans’ “Rally to Restore Unity.” Be sure to look her up and all of the other synchrobloggers who are hoping to remove a few bricks from a few walls dividing believers. And while you’re at it, send a few bucks to Charity: Water, the beneficiary of this little online experiment. Right now, my region – Central Arkansas – is aflood and our own water safety could be at risk within hours. Find out what Charity: Water does to improve water quality in developing nations.)

What Constitutes Heresy?

At first glance, that might be hard to answer. You won’t find the word “heresy” in your Bible very often.

Unless, you have the King James Version; there, you will find it in Acts 24:14. There it’s used to describe what the pagans called “The Way” – Christianity.

Peter uses its plural, once, to warn:

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. ~ 2 Peter 2:1

There are, however, plenty of false teachings and descriptions of false teachers and what they do outlined in New Testament scripture:

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. ~ Romans 16:17-19

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. . . . Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. ~ Colossians 2:8, 16-23

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. ~ 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. ~ 1 Timothy 4:1-5

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. ~ 1 Timothy 6:3-5

Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. ~ 2 Timothy 2:14-18

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone. ~ 2 Timothy 3:1-9

For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. . . . They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. ~ Titus 1:10-11, 16

Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. ~ Hebrews 13:9

I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work. ~ 2 John 1:7-11

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. ~ 3 John 1:9

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. . . . These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. . . . These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage. ~ Jude 1:3-4, 12-13, 16

Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. ~ Revelation 2:14 . . . Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. ~ Revelation 2:20

These are the false teachers and what they taught and did, whether out of Jewish exclusivity or pagan inclusivity … whether out of piety or selfishiness.

You learn a lot about these false teachers from those phrases I put in italics. They love to be first and call themselves prophets; they slip in secretly; they will lie, lie about where their teaching came from, flatter, cajole, take control of others, take over their homes, will not welcome others, and cause divisons and controversies. They are boastful, proud, arrogant, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, treacherous, rash … the adjectives go on and on. (You’ve got to admire Jude’s very poetic description of them!) They like to quarrel about words. They are control freaks. They must have their own way. And some of them hope to make money from teaching what they think they know. If that were the worst of it, one could teach them and ignore them – keep away from them; not associate with them – if they ignored the teaching, so that they would be shamed.

But it’s what they teach that makes it impossible for them to repent; they confidently assert the rightness of it; their consciences have been seared. And what they teach include these heresies: impose circumcision and kosher dietary laws; cause trouble over celebrating holidays; encourage participation in idolatry; teach myths and genealogies as crucial; add worship of angels; forbid marriages; that Christ has already come; deny that He is Lord; and deny that He came in the flesh.

All of these things stab at the very heart of Christian faith: the sufficiency of the blood of Jesus manifesting the love and grace of the one and only God. They contradict the gospel of Jesus Christ.

These were no mere quibblings over what can or can’t be done in worship; who can or can’t preach Christ and Him crucified; or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

But hear me out on this, please.

When quibblings are elevated to a level that rivals the sufficiency of Christ to save, they become heresies. They don’t even have to produce the kind of personalities described above, although they can and probably will. Whatever empties the cross of its power and causes divisions (1 Corinthians 1:20) almost always is – or becomes – extricated with personalities and ego and personal preferences.

Those are the kinds of personalities Jesus had to deal with among the Pharisees and Sadducees, who had elevated their human teachings to the level of law and attributed them to God – even though some schools of human teaching didn’t agree with others (Matthew 2:22-23).

Quibbling matters are earthly things (Colossians 3:1-17); and when they become elevated to something more than they are, these teachings of men render worship vain (Matthew 15:9, Mark 7:7).

Ultimately, they bring swift destruction to the one who teaches them.

How Many Churches Are There?

How many churches did Jesus say He would build on this rock?

How many churches did He establish on Pentecost?

How many churches did He establish after Pentecost?

How many churches did He give His lifeblood to redeem?

If there is only one true church, which one is it?

How many names did it have in century one?

How many names does it have in century twenty-one?

Do names given to that church by man mean anything to the One who knows the name of each soul in it and how many hairs each has on his/her head?

If we can believe that God is three Persons yet One, is it impossible that there may be many churches yet one Church?

Does a church have to get every item of doctrine completely perfect in order to follow Christ and do His work in this world?

Does a soul seeking God have to be part of a church which gets every item of doctrine perfect in order to be saved?

If a church has a perfect doctrine, say, about baptism – but its members don’t clean up their act about sexual purity or what they enjoy watching on tv or at the movies or what they like to listen to on their car radios … is that still the one true church washed in Jesus’ blood?

If a church has a perfect doctrine, for example, about the Lord’s Supper – but doesn’t feed the hungry; doesn’t sell its possessions and give to the poor so that none will be in need … is that church still dining with Christ?

If a church has a perfect doctrine about, let’s see, church governance – but its members do not govern themselves in their conduct or demeanor toward others … is that church still ruled by the King of kings?

If a church has a perfect doctrine regarding, oh, divorce – but it doesn’t care for widows and orphans in their desperation … is that church still part of God’s family?

These are hard questions.

But when the tests of life are graded, will it make any difference to the Teacher that we thought all the questions would be on doctrine and that they would all be true/false?

Permitted and Forbidden

One point of view:

“Whatever is not mentioned in scripture is forbidden in worship.”

Another point of view:

“Whatever is not mentioned in scripture is permitted in worship.”

Both are absurd.

Vendors hawking popcorn in the aisles between pews are not mentioned in scripture. Should they be permitted?

Standing while singing in the assembly of Christ’s followers is not mentioned in scripture. Should it be forbidden?

I submit that both points of view are ridiculous because they seek to exclude the other in all circumstances.

I submit that both points of view are preposterous because they imply that scripture is designed almost solely to provide laws and rules and regulations which must be followed to the letter, even if the letter is silent.

I submit that both points of view are ludicrous because they define worship as if it were something that can only happen when believers are assembled on a Sunday morning for an hour or two.

I submit that any two honest believers can come to polar opposite conclusions about what scripture says is worship acceptable to God and still be siblings in Christ and accepted by God. I can say that because differences in what is offered as worship to God go all the way back to the land east of Eden and Genesis 4. God is sovereign. He can look with favor on what is offered, or not. But His judgment upon the one who offers it is not based upon the content of the gift offered in worship. It is based upon the heart and conduct of the giver.

God told Cain: “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

But it would be equally absurd to conclude that the heart of the giver has no effect on the content of the gift offered in worship. God would later outline sacrifices of the firstfruits from both the land and the flocks/herds. Jesus would recommend reconciling with someone with whom there was conflict before offering a gift of worship. Did His advice end with the altar?

Can we worship God together whole-heartedly if we are distracted by feelings of contempt toward those we have judged to offer an unworthy gift of worship? Or those we have judged to be criticizing our own gifts of worship?

Can we worship day-to-day, by the way we serve Him, hobbled by those concerns?

Is judgment really our role in the first place?

Wouldn’t it be worship to recognize it as His, and leave it to Him to do perfectly?

There are plenty of places in scripture which describe what God accepts as worship. Prayer. Singing. Giving gratefully. Communion with Him and each other at His table. Evangelism. But that’s not all. There’s more, much more:

Selflessness. Sacrifice. Generosity. Benevolence. Forgiveness of others. Mercy. Justice. Penitence. Humility. Love. Joy. Peace-brokering. Patience. Kindness. Gentleness. Self-control. Teaching. Exemplifying Christ. Fasting. Servitude. Obeisance. Obedience. Hospitality. Faith. Courage. Childlikeness.

You can’t fit all of that into two hours on Sunday.

And it makes no sense to focus almost solely on legislating and enforcing the tithe of the mint and the rue and the anise and the cummin – at the neglect of these far weightier matters.

Let’s use our best judgment and fullest heart to present Him our gifts of worship with consciences clear and free of judging others.

Let’s do what God clearly says to do: what He has permitted.

Let’s abstain from what God clearly says to avoid: what He has forbidden.

Let’s see the Word for what it is: an eclipse pinhole through which His perfect glory is projected on our lives; not a magnifying glass on the imperfections of His worshipers.

Let’s not try to make it say more or less than it says; interpret it to mean more or less than it means; quote Him as saying more or less than He has said.

Let’s let Him decide what is permitted and what is forbidden … who has obeyed and who has disobeyed … and whether He will show mercy or mete justice.

To me, any other point of view is, well, absurd.

The ‘Sin’ of Conflict

Confession time. I am a long-time, certified, card-carrying conflict avoider.

It’s the way I was brought up. It’s the way I believed. It’s the result of seeing second-hand the major conflicts in my church and first-hand the minor conflicts in my family as I grew up. (My dad was an elder. I couldn’t help but overhear. My mom and sisters were, and are, strong-willed. I couldn’t help but witness.)

And while “conflict-avoider” has become an integral part of my nature, I have come to the conclusion that it is just plain wrong.

As in “sinful.”

Moses was not a conflict avoider. Nor was any good judge nor any good king nor any prophet who followed him.

Jesus was not a conflict avoider. Nor was any apostle nor any missionary who followed Him, in scripture.

Conflict is an unavoidable aspect of the human condition.

God’s word shares all kinds of ways to resolve it. Some are obviously better than others. And a few are absolutely priceless.

Some “for-instances”: Matthew 5:23-26. Matthew 18:15-35. All of John 17. Romans 12:17-19. I Corinthians 6:6-8. Philippians 4:2-9. I Peter 1:22, and 4:8 for emphasis. I Timothy 5:1-2.

Just a sampling.

None of which has anything to do with avoiding conflict. All of which deal with conflict in an imperative, urgent manner.

I know that resolving conflict can have the look of sin. It can tempt sin. It can involve sin. But, handled as advised by God, it doesn’t have to – and not dealing with conflict can lead to even worse problems.

No two people are ever going to agree on everything – you can bank on it.

But God – who is perfect harmony among three Beings as One – can help resolve conflict between and among us, if we are willing to be the instruments of His peace.