Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. 1 John 4:15-21
I don't often throw my cards on the table for everyone to see. Although I am working out my faith with fear and trembling, I don't want to do all of that in the public sphere. But, I do want to show one of those cards today. I have a working thesis regarding all of us who chase after this thing/person we call God. Here it goes:
Everyone pursuing God has developed, is developing and will continue to develop false ideas about God. It is part of the process. It always has been. It always will be. Because God cannot be fully grasped by finite human minds, we must accept that we cannot contain God in our words and/or reason. But, over the course of time, God will guide us to correct views, which will ultimately culminate in perfect understanding by experiencing the actual presence of God.
That's it. And I think resolving this in my heart has allowed me to drink from the different springs that arise throughout Christendom. It is why Dostoevsky's Orthodox beliefs shining through Zosima and Alyosha in The Brothers Karamazov doesn't scare me. It's why Jay Bakker and Tony Jones don't bother me as they look at more progressive thoughts. It is why Krista Dalton and Rachel Held Evans encourage me in empowering women and challenging status quo about women in leadership. It is why I love the passion I see in Brian and Jenn Johnson. It is why Mike Bickle can challenge me when it comes to the Holy Spirit. It is why John Piper can get under my skin, but I still accept him as my brother, because he has things he can teach me. It is why I am not scared when my faith and beliefs are challenged. I choose not to live in fear. Because these men and women confess Jesus as Lord, and God therefore abides in them.
I think if there is anything that I have within me to help and spur on the Church it is this same attitude. It is my ability to rummage through the various corners of Christendom and glean what is good. It is kind of what I was hinting at yesterday in the Rob Bell post. I desire to see us all dine at the table together. It's like American Thanksgiving and I am inviting a bunch of guests. And instead of assigning positions so that Aunt Heidi Baker doesn't get sat next to Uncle Thomas Merton, I just roll with it. Because there are a lot of beautiful things that can happen when groups are challenged. A lot of love can develop.
But, it hasn't always been that way for me. I came from a tradition that worked hard to maintain a certain theological outlook. Anything that threatened that was labeled heretical and you were banned from even looking at it. And last night I was exposed to a group that did the same. It attacked Richard Foster. Now, I don't know that I can say this definitively, BUT, I venture to guess not many people find Foster that threatening. He is not the whore of Babylon that this website would have you believe. But the men and women who run this website view his teachings on meditation as too Eastern and a threat to the Gospel. Actually, there are a lot of people this particular group are afraid of. Here are some they specifically list on their website:
Christian Mystics of the Past
Global Peace Plan
The New Missiology
Be Still Video
Signs & Wonders
This group is lost in fear. They are so afraid that they are choosing to not engage with the world. They are going beyond the call of being in the world, but not of it; they are isolating themselves. And more than likely they are endangering themselves. That is often what happens when we are so scared of everyone else. Our protective hedges cause our theology and beliefs to become fringe, and we are no longer tempered by our brothers and sisters. In other words, we need to be challenged. We need to be confronted. Challenges to faith actually spur us on. It’s not the other way around.
Beyond that, my biggest issue with groups of the Church that do these same things is that we limit the view of God's power and faithfulness. If we are so afraid that going to the picture show, playing cards, hearing a Beatles song is going to destroy our faith, then ultimately our God is not nearly as powerful as we think. Think about that for a minute. If a simple song, if using instruments in worship, or talking to a prostitute or homosexual is enough to endanger everything you hold dear, what does that speak about your faith and your God? Your entire life is based around worry and protection. Instead of engaging in the world as it really is, your life is built around keeping everything and everyone out, instead of engaging and inviting them in, which is more attune with the Gospel message. It’s like you are living in M. Night Shyalaman’s Village.
One of my strong suits (though some may see this as weakness) is that I simply trust God, my faith in Him and the input of community to keep me safe from buying into cheap religion, false teachings and dangerous beliefs. I trust that God will guide and protect my steps. I believe that He will lead me by peaceful streams. I believe that he will save me in torrential floods. My belief in the bigness of God and His ability to love His creation triumphs over fear. And beyond that, my idea that I will believe false things along the way, but in time God will lead me to correction also alleviates fear. I guess it simply comes down to belief that God is love. Residing in love, knowing it, experiencing it and trusting that you are loved removes all of this performance and pretense and in the process fear. I'm not afraid of punishment, I'm comforted by love. And that allows me to experience faith in action and not put up walls that keep me hidden from you.