There’s a deception that I’ve come to … well, I don’t know that I actually “hate” it, but I sure don’t love it.
It’s a deception, an illusion, and it’s perpetrated, many times, in God’s name, and often with the best of intentions.
It’s the deception of the finished lesson.
I became aware of it while I was studying something-or-other for teaching. I felt like I was wrestling a greased pig. I cut my way through bunny trails and wild goose chases and fought off premature and inaccurate conclusions.
It was a long and arduous process.
And when I was done, I presented my results to the folks I was teaching, all tidy, all logical, all wrapped up with a nice little bow on it.
It was good teaching. And my conclusions were both accurate and relevant.
But I was uncomfortable with how tidy it was. This was not a tidy topic, and I felt that I’d done folks a disservice by hiding the blood, sweat, toil and tears that went into the process.
In actual fact, the blood, sweat, toil and tears are a legitimate part of the topic, of the conversation. Let’s be honest: outside of TV shows, there aren’t a lot of thorny questions that tidily wrap themselves up in 30 minutes, are there?
It seems to me that the need to make things tidy and clean and neat is not actually a benefit to American culture.
Let’s be specific. If we think that the abortion issue has a clean and simple answer, we’re not paying attention. If we think that the topic of social justice can be solved easily, we’re smoking something interesting. If we think the fear of God, or the grace of God, or the rapture, or the solution to immigration, or balancing a household budget have tidy answers, we’re not seeing the whole of the subject.
Christian platitudes are an abysmal failure. But Christian blogs and Christian books (and not-so-Christian books) that have clear-cut answers are equally deceptive.
We’ll see how I respond to this, how I deal with this in the future. As much as anyone else, I like having clear answers readily available, and I like not looking like a dork as I stumble for an answer that actually means something on a complex topic.
But we might find that not every post has a confident conclusion. I don’t know. We’ll see how this turns out.
I have a friend, a young man, who was beaten as a child.
I don't mean spanked. I mean beaten.
When he made a mistake, and what youngster doesn't make mistakes; that's how you learn, isn't it? When he made a mistake, his parents would get angry, and they'd "discipline" him.
"This is for your own good, you know," his daddy would say as he unbuckled his big leather belt, "because we love you. We want you to be better than this." And he'd wield that heavy belt on him over and over and over.
Sometimes their "loving discipline" would result in blood or visible bruises, so he'd miss school for a while until the marks healed.
He left home at an early age, and didn't tell his parents where he went.
I want to hold him in my arms and weep with him, and most of all, I want to tell him, "Son, that's not love. I don't know what that was, maybe demons, maybe alcohol, maybe their own woundedness, but it sure as hell is not love!"
I have another friend, a young woman, who had a different sort of hell in her childhood. And when her daddy took off his belt, and announced, "This is our secret, because I love you," she learned not to fight back, not to talk about it, especially not to talk to mom.
She left home at an early age, taking her baby daughter, who was also her sister, with her. She never looked back, never told anyone where she went.
I want to hold her in my arms and weep with her, and most of all, I want to tell her, "Daughter, that's not love. I don't now what sort of sick, perverted, self-centered bullshit that was, but that sure as hell is not love!"
Just because someone says, "I'm only saying this, I'm only doing this because I love you," doesn't mean it's love. Just because they say that it's for my own good doesn't mean, well, it doesn't mean anything, really. Real love doesn't need to be announced: you can tell it's love just by looking.
It's not often this flagrant, but we do this in the church family sometimes, too. A whole lot of us have learned to cringe whenever someone starts talking about "speaking the truth in love," because it usually lacks love, and often lacks truth, too.
Sometimes the word "submission" is wielded like a stick, or "loyalty" like a ball and chain. It's not unheard of for teachers to train their people that they're the only one that can hear God, and you'd darned well better listen up when I tell you what the Bible says. It's not unheard of for offering time to be less about giving freely unto the Lord and more about my neediness or your obligation and your duty until my budget is met.
We could tell stories here. We could *all* tell stories here, couldn't we? Stories about church, stories about work, stories about family members, about teachers or babysitters or caregivers. Many of them aren't this ugly. Some of them are far worse.
My point is this: I don't care how often or how loudly they tell you that this is love, they're lying to you. Not all of them, of course, but if they're doing these things to you, let me assure you, that is NOT love.
I don't care how often or how loudly they tell you that this is how healthy families relate, they're lying to you.
Not every dad is lying, not every mom. Not every pastor or church leader is lying to you. But if they're doing things that are more about meeting their needs than about yours, then what they're doing isn't love.
This isn't about all the bad things that people do and call it love, and call it "for your good." You already know a number of things that people say is loving, but you know it's not.
This is about you and I recognizing when it isn't really love, when it isn't really for our good. This is about choosing not to live under that yoke of bondage.
It is for freedom - real freedom, not slavery with a new label - that Christ has set us free. Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Jesus bought our freedom, at a very high price, mind you. He has already set us free. But the responsibility to not submit to those old yokes of slavery, that's our job.
“On the day Pentecost was being fulfilled, all the disciples were gathered in one place. Suddenly they heard the sound of a violent blast of wind rushing into the house from out of the heavenly realm. The roar of the wind was so overpowering it was all anyone could bear! Then all at once a pillar of fire appeared before their eyes. It separated into tongues of fire that engulfed each one of them. They were all filled and equipped with the Holy Spirit and were inspired to speak in tongues—empowered by the Spirit to speak in languages they had never learned! …
When the people of the city heard the roaring sound, crowds came running to where it was coming from, stunned over what was happening, because each one could hear the disciples speaking in his or her own language. Bewildered, they said to one another, “Aren’t these all Galileans? … Yet we hear them speaking of God’s mighty wonders in our own dialects!” They all stood there, dumbfounded and astonished, saying to one another, “What is this phenomenon?”
But others poked fun at them and said, “They’re just drunk on new wine.”
Peter stood up with the eleven apostles and shouted to the crowd. “Listen carefully, my fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem. You need to clearly understand what’s happening here. These people are not drunk like you think they are, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.”
This [Acts 2, TPT] is what happened at the first gathering of the saints after Jesus left for Heaven. That was quite a meeting. Functionally, it would be hard to distinguish this “church service” from a riot in the streets. This was not tidy.
By the Law of First Mention – this being that first meeting where the Holy Spirit shows up – this meeting is our standard for when the Holy Spirit shows up in our midst.
This is the Scriptural precedent for 1 Corinthians 14:40: “All things should be done decently and in order.” [RSV]
This is what Holy Spirit considers “decently and in order” when he comes among us.
Let everything be done decently and in order.