Righteousness Reevaluated: The Christ-like culture has problems. That’s the beautiful thing about it.

So, as stated in previous posts, righteousness is a person, not a standard. Righteousness does not come from getting rid of sin…but replacing sin with obedience. And what does God command us to do? Have faith in His Son. Not just “I believe in You, that You died for my sins” faith, but “I believe Your words and Your example…You have the words that give life, therefore, I will obey those words.”

This truth changes individuals. But this truth also changes groups of people (since groups are just a bunch of individuals), and another word for a group of people is a “society.” And “societies” have “cultures,” just like how “individuals” have “personalities.”

Christlike society vs…

…okay, I tried to come up with a subtitle for this section, and I couldn’t. Religious society? No, James says that “true religion” is a good thing, so I will not continue to give the word “religion” a bad rep. Church society? Well, there are good churches, and there are bad churches. I also believe that while a reaction against church might or might not have been beneficial in the past (Christianity is not a game you play on Sundays, but something, nay, Someone who affects your whole life), teenage and young adult culture would do well to stop neglecting the gathering of believers (Hebrews 10:25). So I don’t want to give the word “church” a bad rep either.

Hmm…let’s go with “Self-fulfilling moralistic society.” That sounds about right.

Christlike society vs. Self-fulfilling moralistic society

…and many of us have gotten a taste of both. For this section, I will do some talking about my own church, where I have felt at home and loved for many, many years. I will talk about some other great churches. I will also do some abstract talking about different experiences I have had and different stories I have heard.

The point of everything I’m about to say, and I’ll say it before and after, is that you really can see and feel a distinct difference between a Christlike culture and a moralistic culture. So here we go.

Just one example: Marriage and divorce

I am going to pull this one as an example of a great many things. Many Christians lament the high divorce rate in our society. Is it lamentable? Yes. But how we as Christians handle it, how we talk about it, is very important.

Let me succinctly say my beliefs here.

A)     Divorce sucks.

B)     If no one in your church is divorced, you’re doing it wrong.

Let me explain. The divorce rate in America went up to above 50%, but is now steadily declining. Am I complaining? Actually, I am just stating numbers in order to state a fact. If no one in your church is divorced, who are you sharing the gospel with? Just so you know, Christians are running the same statistics as non-Christians: 50% divorce rate. So if no one in your church is divorced, or maybe if 10% of your church is divorced, it probably means that the way your society talks about divorce alienates those who have suffered from it.

I don’t really have a negative example in mind that I have experienced or heard of. Thus, the only pictures in my mind are ones of encouragement. I know that my church does have a lot of people of all ages who have experienced divorce. I believe this is a strength because when people who have suffered  from divorce come to our church, they experience comfort from these older people, because Jesus comforted them in their time of need.

When I see this happen, I think of chapter 4 of John. Jesus knows the woman at the well has had 5 husbands. He responds by offering her living water. That is Christlikeness.

Jesus is very straightforward about standing against divorce because God never meant for it to be that way. However, we don’t have any record of Him speaking about how divorce is so common because men are jerks or women nag all the time or anything. He is not insensitive or abrasive in how He handles this topic.

Now, let me back up for a second to apply this to all things.

a)      If no one in the youth group is having sex, you’re doing it wrong. We’re missing people who need Christ!

b)      If no one in the church struggles with porn, you’re doing it wrong.

c)      If every single person dresses modestly, you’re doing it wrong.

d)      If every single person votes Republican, you’re doing it wrong.

e)      If you never hear any profanity at your church, you’re doing it wrong.

Because all of these things mean that either a) we’re totally missing a certain crowd, or b) we’re alienating them. They come in, but they feel unwelcome, unwanted. Or maybe we tell them that we’re glad they’re here in church, but they feel that we welcome their clean side. They saw us say hi to them and strike up a conversation. They felt that we were genuinely interested in them (because that is what we tried to convey)…until they saw us barely say hi to the woman with the low cut shirt…and then they thought “I wear shirts like that…will they not like me anymore if they knew that?”

My Savior was accused, by Pharisees, of hanging around with drunkards and the worst kind of sinners. Therefore, I think having drunkards and the worst kind of sinners at your church, and having them feel at home, is a mark of Christlikeness. As Matt (our new youth pastor…is he still the new guy at this point?) would say, “You smell like Christ.”

But Carson!!! What about Psalm 1:1?

Ps 1:1 (NIV)

Blessed is the man

who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked

or stand in the way of sinners

or sit in the seat of mockers.

Part of the Hebrew poetic style here is how the Psalmist goes from “walking” to “standing” to “sitting.” Also, one must notice that each phrase is a “genitive” phrase. It does not say “who does not walk with the wicked” or “stand with sinners” or “sit with mockers” but each phrase has an object or path that belongs to these people. We, as Christians, should never walk (quite often, walk is a metaphor for live. Don’t we refer to our faith as “our walk with Christ”?) in the counsel of the wicked. The “way” of sinners falls under the same rule: “Way” was used in the first century the same way we use “walk” today. This same rule applied to the Hebrew language.

Now, it is quite true that we should not submerge ourselves in bad influences. But to use this Scripture to say “stay away from them!” is going too far.

Now, Scripture does actually tell us to stay away from people. We are told not even to share a meal with false teachers, and we told to stay away from idle people who don’t work. But even in that instance, it comes with the reminder not to treat them as an enemy, but warn them as a brother. Observe…

2 Thess 3:11-15 (NASB)

For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. 13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good. 14 And if anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that man and do not associate with him, so that he may be put to shame. 15 And yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

However, I can’t think of any point where we are called to avoid drunkards, foul-mouthed people, druggies, sexually immoral people, or any of the above.

But won’t we get dragged down by them? Although we hate to admit it, don’t the friends a person chooses have a powerful influence on them? Yes. So isn’t it likely that if we hang around those types, then we are likely to become like them? Yes and no. Whether it is likely or not depends on one crucial factor. Which is coming up, two or three blogs from now.

One body, many DIFFERENT parts

A quick recap of last post: Independence is an illusion, unless you grow your own food and filter your own water and own a do-it-yourself surgery kit. We must realize and treasure interdependence, as opposed to letting it bother us.

I talked about a shift from independence to interdependence. I think I am changing my wording to a realization of the difference between independence and interdependence. Because independent people don’t exist.

 

And the Church?

 

1 Cor 12:12-27 (NLT)

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up only one body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into Christ’s body by one Spirit, and we have all received the same Spirit.  

14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am only an ear and not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 Suppose the whole body were an eye — then how would you hear? Or if your whole body were just one big ear, how could you smell anything?

18 But God made our bodies with many parts, and he has put each part just where he wants it. 19 What a strange thing a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

22 In fact, some of the parts that seem weakest and least important are really the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect from the eyes of others those parts that should not be seen, 24 while other parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together in such a way that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other equally. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

27 Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.

 

Following this is a list of different “parts” such as apostles, teachers, people with the gift of healing, etc. Perhaps I am out of line to make this following application, but let me try as I might.

 

Some people go to church, and they feel guilty for everything they are not involved in. Even when they are involved, they continue to feel guilty for everything they are not involved in. And how much is there that one could get involved in? Let me take my church for example…

Middle and high school youth group (called “Youth Ministries”)

Children’s Ministries

Nursery

Community Outreach

Senior Ministries

Society Meetings (an old term for church meetings)

Vacation Bible School

Missionary work and support

Worship Arts Ministries (code for “music”)

Young Adult Ministries as well as Young Family Ministries

and I’m only scratching the surface. How can one person be totally plugged into everything?

In light of this, God places us in churches, and then He might put a passion in our heart for a certain thing. Or He might give us a certain skill set. He gives us an individual wiring that functions within a body of believers.

 

My own wiring

Taking me for example, I gravitate towards teenagers and the struggles they go through. I like to teach teenagers, and I also like to listen to them. I can teach taekwondo to children, but I don’t necessarily feel gifted or driven to teach Bible to children. Teenagers, however, I would like to teach Bible to all day long. I also play video games. I am also a sociology nerd. All this stuff together seems to be how God equipped me to do something in the church. I don’t know what exactly it is that God wants me to do, but a Game Night was my best guess. And we’re having fun.

As for musical worship, I have zero musical talent, and although I understand that musical worship is important for a body of believers, I confess that I find myself often thinking “Is this the last song before the sermon?”

So should I feel guilty about having no involvement in the praise and worship team? No. Should an adult who doesn’t really feel passionate about teenagers feel guilty for not getting involved in youth group? No.

However, this is not a license for us to sit on our butts and do nothing!!! For God has given each one of us something that we are interested in, something that we care about, and connections to certain people. My point is not meant to teach people to stay uninvolved. It is meant to teach people that God doesn’t require you to say yes to everything. Rather, my hope for this post is that we pay extra careful attention to where God wants us, understanding that God doesn’t intend for us to get into everything.

Let me use money as a metaphor. God does not require that you tithe AND donate to every missionary AND donate to the building costs AND donate to the benevolence fund AND donate to the struggling family. However, if you have chosen a location as your church home and you are doing NONE of those things at all, I would be so bold as to say that something is seriously wrong (Not because God needs your money, but because money is the best indicator of priorities. See “Opportunity Cost and What It Proves.” It shows a spiritual reality in your own heart).

In the same way, if we are plugged in to a church body, we don’t have to be involved in EVERYTHING. However, if we are involved in NOTHING, then something is wrong.

God gave you a passion, a skill set, and certain connections. See what program to get involved in at your church. Or maybe you really freaking love to play badminton, and so do a lot of your friends, but your church does not have a “badminton players for Christ” program. Start it. And constantly keep an ear out for God…does He want you to stop it? Does He want you to keep it going? Maybe He just wanted it to go for a little while?

Find where God wants you plugged in (which might not be where everybody else wants you plugged in, but it might be), and do it.