Now let me preface this by saying I do believe that there is a true ancient path in which we are called to walk. I love these words of Jeremiah:
This is what the LORD says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls. (Jer 6:16)
But I am also convinced this ancient path is not intricately wrapped up in a kind of static mold. Even the ways of God carry a dynamic to them, meaning they are not simply motionless and immobile.
Please, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not here to argue about changing morals. Well, I would first ask why our mind turns to morals when we talk about these things. For those who are truly new creations, I don’t find that we need so much convincing about right and wrong morals. True, some do, no doubt. But I’m not here arguing about morality.
And I also know Christ didn’t come to simply make us moral people. He came to awaken us, give us life, give us His Spirit.
Yeah, yeah. We know.
Yeah, we know. We know it, oh, so well, right? So well it doesn’t even transform our lives. And we get caught up in arguments about morals and other things that don’t draw us into the life of God. And we set everything in black and white language, we put everything into static and stone-cold molds, and then we take up arguments with those who disagree.
We forget that the letter kills and the Spirit gives life.
This is not what God had in mind.
We don’t want change. We don’t want risk.
Our commitment is to follow Jesus…….as long as we can stay in our comfortability.
Listen, I agree. I like to stay comfortable. I don’t simply want my basic needs met. I want a whole lot more! Western Christianity’s general motto – ‘We’ll follow you, Christ, as long as we can be comfortable and you don’t ask much of us.’
So don’t ask us to change. Don’t help us understand what true transformation is. Don’t ask us to get a real glimpse of what Jesus meant when he meant the church. Don’t ask us to think about what it means to be the church in the 21st century. We went through enough and got established fairly well in the 20th century (or the 16th century).
But we are headed somewhere. The kingdom will come in all its fulness. Jesus will be shown as Lord of heaven and earth. The new heavens and new earth will become a reality one day. Yet it’s not fully here. So you know what this means? It will call for massive change. But not just in morals. It will call for a complete renewal of our perspectives, renewal of our mindsets.
New things come about with each new generation. Some of it is junk and falls to the wayside. I’m thankful we have a sovereign God.
But most of the time, when change comes, change that is truly needed, we resist it. Yes, even those who take the name of Christ-ian. Even those who identify themselves as already entering the transformation of the new creation. And this includes me.
I have to be honest and say it scares me at times. It really does. Because what it means is that I am not in control. That is an oh-so important word. You see, I like to be in control – of me, of my family, of my finances, of my time, of the people I shepherd, of the church culture I claim to be a part of. And then God brings a change into one, or all of them at the same time, and I feel very uncomfortable. Very!!
If you admit it, I think you would agree.
I recently heard of a particular denomination’s ruling on the NIV2011. It’s not really that this denomination has such a hierarchy as to demand that all of its members adhere to their specific pronouncement and ruling on this new Bible translation. But the pronouncement was made anyways. The recommendation has been made that the NIV2011 should not be sold in the bookstore that is connected with this particular denomination, the pastors should make the errors of this translation known to their people, and these pastors should not commend this translation to their people.
It’s all centred in the gender-neutral language of the NIV2011.
I have a copy of the NIV2011 and have now made it the main version of Scripture I read and teach from (moving from the ESV, though I have no problems with the ESV). I read the intro pages at the beginning of the NIV2011 and appreciated what the translation team had to say as to why they took this specific approach on gender language.
Of course, gender issues and language are hot topics of today. They’ve been around before, but the past few decades has really brought a special interest.
This is one of those places of change where we are beginning to be uncomfortable. Yes, change IS taking place here. More and more churches are allowing women in leadership, moving to a more egalitarian view. This is huge and will no doubt, unfortunately, cause church splits, maybe even denomination splits. It is a blue parakeet issue, to use a phrase in the title of one of Scot McKnight’s books.
We want to cage this parakeet, but we really can’t. We even try caging it by quoting Bible passages. But again, I don’t believe this parakeet cannot be caged. Now, it could be that, in a couple of more decades the issue will have settled down and we are all convinced the complementarian view is the proper perspective of God on gender issues. But we still cannot cage the issue. It must be dealt with in all of its details. And systematic theology isn’t going to fully help this one. It will probably just keep it caged.
I sense that when my children and grandchildren are grown, this won’t be an issue. The church will finally have shifted to allow for women in leadership, also realising that we don’t have to reject the NIV2011 nor the NIV2050. But we cannot cover the issue by telling people they shouldn’t read a certain version of the Bible. Guess what it does? It makes people want to go out and buy the item and read it themselves. For proof, remember what happened with the whole Rob Bell thing a few months back. Or, for this particular denomination, let them recall past rulings (e.g., when they recommended that Disney movies should not be watched).
You want people to do something, just tell them they should not or cannot. We will do the opposite. Such is the reality of our individualistic, free, western spirit. Ok, let’s move on……
We don’t like change, do we? I don’t like change. I mean really, think about your worst nightmare – changing from cessationist to continuationist, or vice versa; changing from complementarian to egalitarian, or vice versa; changing from Calvinist to Arminian, or vice versa; changing from reformed to new perspective on justification; or vice versa (has that happened yet?); changing from exclusivist to inclusivist, or vice versa. And on and on we go with the most uncomfortable of situations.
To share that you participate in eastern exercises and look to reappropriate such for the glory of Christ himself. Is that possible? To begin to pray with a work colleague each morning that is a Muslim? Is that acceptable? To eat pork ribs at your neighbour’s BBQ. Well, thankfully that one seems to have been dealt with. To use the NLT in your daily devotions. For some reason the NLT is ok, but not the NIV2011?
While evangelicals don’t tend to excommunicate, you might definitely be considered part of the
gossip prayer list for such changes and approaches – whether more theological or more practical.
Change is not easy for any of us to walk through.
I hope you catch that I am trying to swing a pendulum here. Whereas I believe the pendulum has swung too far one way, it needs to head back the other way in many areas. But I am purposefully looking to make a pendulum-swinging point, one which I believe is desperately needed in certain circles, maybe even my own, lest I become arrogant and unwilling to walk out my own preaching.
Life is easier when we don’t take risks. I am not for taking risks just for the sake of taking risks. But I am up for plowing forth in risky areas as I see God’s hand at work, as I hear God’s voice speak. Such a path of change might be difficult, but it will take place as He leads us forward. And it will be all the better, producing much more fruit in our lives than if we had stayed in a particular static mold.
Sometimes we are too cautious for our own good. We put up guards and cautions and barriers and boundaries with every issue. And it not only keeps particular issues caged, it keeps God’s people caged. It keeps us from the dynamic truth that is found in Christ as his Spirit truly works amongst the body that we are.
I end with these wise words found in the book of Acts, possibly coming from one who was not a Christ-follower. We aren’t sure, but his words are very appropriate here:
38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.