Monday, August 27, 2007

Religious Terrorist

I heard this phrase for the first time this weekend during Sunday school. It was a term used to describe the religious zealots who too easily inflict devastating harm in the name of "holiness". I’m not talking about the kind of zealots who strap bombs to their chest and walk into a crowded mall. No - those are obvious villains whose crimes are undeniable. The ones I am talking about are a more subtle form of terrorism which is socially acceptable within most Christian circles.

They are killers of freedom and grace, crushing their victims under the weight of legalistic convictions. They hurl stones of condemnation when their philosophy of faith is not adopted. They walk proudly as those who should be commended for their courageous stand for truth. Self proclaimed "Defenders of the Faith" - or so they think.

The term came during a prayer request as a member of the class described a situation where a family had been hurt by the church on more than one occasion and there was concern that the children would grow up bitter towards God and His church. We all prayed for the unfortunate situation in hopes that the children would be able to rise out of the ashes of suffering and disappointment to trust in a God they have only vaguely witnessed in the Christian community.

I found it interesting that the passage of scripture we studied that particular morning was 1 Corinthians 5. This section of Paul’s letter describes a situation of immorality in the Corinthian church and the question from the teacher was, “Why is it important to address situations like these in the church?”

Without hesitation, the class responded with appropriate answers of protection for the church and the importance of an undefiled Christian witness. The discussion stimulated more questions about what should receive church discipline and if there was a “list” of sins worthy of such vigilant confrontation. A commentary on the text suggests that “public sin must be publicly judged and condemned”.

Although I would not deny the thought presented in this Sunday discussion, I would also suggest it is only half right. And to gravitate to only one side of this equation is to stir the rumblings of a terrorist camp.

We are to love God with all our heart soul and mind but also to love our neighbor as ourselves. Let’s protect the church but let’s also be a refuge to its people. The problem of the Corinthian church was more of a problem with the church itself than it was the issue of immorality. Immorality existed because the church was unwillingly to purposefully engage in a life of transparency and devotion among its members.

How can any of us remain pure and holy before God if we are not purposefully engaged in eachother’s lives for Christ’s sake? Perhaps the reason the man in question had slid down the slippery slope of lust was because no one was willing to extend the hand of brotherly love and accountability along the way. If this is the case, the church should bear the weight of the blame.

“He should be ashamed”, we might say. No, I suggest we are the ones who should be ashamed.

So go love on someone! Find a person who is broken and bruised. The most difficult part won’t be finding them. The difficult part will be mustering the courage and willingness to do something about it.

May we seek to be a church that holds the balance of Jesus’ instruction. We should have a holy zeal to love God with all our heart. But this love should motivate us to love His people with the same devotion He demonstrated in His humble sacrifice on the cross.

Today, choose to put down your stone of condemnation and find someone who needs the open hand of grace and love. Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God." (James 1:19-20)

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