Monday, January 11, 2010

My Favourite Commandment

Ginx thinks that I should do a post on Christians who sin. He thinks that I should do this because some Christian men wear expensive suits.

Because I have a lot to say, and because we Christians sin so persistently, one post will not do. Therefore this will be a series.

First of all, what is “sin” or “sinning”? As I define it, sin is anything that contradicts or goes against the will of our Creator. In order to let us know His will, we have been given guidelines.

To help with clarity, if this was regarding the guidelines that come with your vehicle, it would be a sin to rev your engine to 6,500 rpms and hold it there for five minutes. Manufacturer’s guidelines, whether for your vehicle or for you are meant to protect the product from damage.

Stripped down to the bottom line, OUR Manufacturer’s guidelines say, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength and Love your neighbour as yourself.” These two guidelines encompass all the others. Another way of putting it is, “Treat others the way you would want others to treat you.” Examples of what that might look like are, don’t murder, don’t take what doesn’t belong to you, don’t tell lies, etc. etc. Most people reading this are quite familiar with these guidelines as they are found in the “Ten Commandments.”

All Christians have at least one favourite commandment. The favourite is usually the one(s) that we find easiest to obey. You can tell which commandment is someone's favourite because that's the one that is commented on when other people AREN’T obeying it. This isn’t just a Christian behaviour. Most people love making up rules for themselves and others. And most people love pointing out when others aren’t keeping the rules. In fact we have whole programs called The News that give us the details of how people haven’t kept the rules. Rules are one of the easiest ways of keeping score. Rules tell us Who’s good. Who’s bad. Who’s in. Who’s out. Some people have jobs to ensure that other people keep the rules. Others, often Christians, take it upon themselves, on a voluntary basis, to make sure that other people are keeping the rules. If this type of behaviour is kept within the confines of one’s home, usually the negative impact on society is kept to a minimum.

Unfortunately, enforcing “rule keeping” (aka proper or acceptable behaviour) takes a special kind of personality. That’s why the Bible has guidelines about how the “Spiritual Leader” of the home should go about guiding his family in rule keeping / obey God’s law / not sinning.

NOTE: The role of Spiritual Leader should not be confused with any other type of leadership role in the home.

I can tell that Ginx is getting anxious to hear about Christians who sin so I’ll get to that straight away.

I can’t tell you how many Christian husbands I’ve worked with who believe they are doing a good job of being the Spiritual Leader of their homes. Instead they’re spiritual bullies or tyrants.

From the perspective of the counselling that I do, a Spiritual Leader models for the family what it means to:

Submit

Forgive

Be a servant-leader

Display mercy and grace and tenderness and gentleness to the members of his family.

So very many of the men with whom I work display none or at least very few of those characteristics - BUT - at least no one in the family is allowed to go to a movie on Sunday.

In homes with Spiritual bullies, it’s not always the Sabbath rule that’s the favourite, but there will be some rule or set of rules that this leader is forcing on his family as a means of keeping track of how good he / they are doing in their relationship with Jesus. Their kids might hate them and their wives might want to leave them, but they're very good at making sure their kids do not wear jeans to Church, thereby proving in their own minds how close they are to the Lord.

One guy in particular stands out. Pastors are especially prone to neglecting their families while “doing God’s work.” It’s a notoriously difficult profession in which to find balance. At any rate, this Pastor would tell me, session after session how he was praying in tongues and having these profound visions and his church was growing by leaps and bounds (we must not forget that God’s blessings are not necessarily a sign of our good standing). Yet, like the cases mentioned above, his kids hated him, and this, his third wife wanted to leave him. When I moved him toward the above picture of Spiritual Leadership - servant leadership - he became very agitated, moved to the edge of his chair and with his index finger stabbing the air this Pastor said, “I am NOT going to be the suffering servant in this relationship!” And with that, ended his third marriage. The congregation split. A couple people left Christianity for good.

Whenever we put rules and appearance ahead of loving people, the results are tragic.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day had their favourite commandments as well. Interestingly, and for no obvious reason, their most favourite was the Sabbath. Don’t do ANYTHING on the Sabbath. Like modern day spiritual tyrants, the Pharisees had found their identity in keeping rules. While “Keeping the Sabbath” originally meant, ceasing from your normal routine (an incredibly psychologically and physically healthy thing to do) the Pharisees had established thirty-nine CATEGORIES of things you could not do on the Sabbath. Pharisees - then and now - live by the saying, If anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing to the extreme.

Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all you heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength, and Love your neighbour as yourself. Keep only these two commands and you will be keeping all the rest as well.

. Without the help of our Creator, consistently loving God and loving others as we love ourselves is impossible. That’s because loving others requires that we put others before ourselves.

. We’re usually pretty good at keeping rules that make us look good in the eyes of others. Unfortunately for us, God said, “I don’t want your sacrifices. I want you to show mercy.”

Loving others / Keeping rules.
Guess which we choose as a means of showing to ourselves and others our degree of holiness?

God’s laws were meant to be a means of blessing us, of protecting us from the inherent human tendency toward self-destructive behaviours. Rather than being blessed by these guidelines, this inherent human tendency toward self-destructive behaviours causes us to take these very same rules and create for ourselves and others an impossible burden of keeping score.

The more that people’s lives feel out of control, the more rules they are likely to add to their daily routine.

What a dreadful mess we’re in. Who can save us from ourselves? Thank God that it’s already been done. While we were still His enemies, Jesus died for us, setting us free from the power of sin. Inner freedom is at our finger tips. All we have to do is reach out and take hold of His offer.

2 comments:

Gutless said...

Nice post but 'cos I'm a jerk I gotta leave somekinda snark.

First of all, what is “sin” or “sinning”? As I define it, sin is anything that contradicts or goes against the will of our Creator...

so if god say kill, you kill!

Makarios said...

So if it rains 3 metre long worms . . . Euthyphro does not apply here