I pray…That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. – John 17:20-23
Christ envisioned the church to be universal, unified, catholic (as opposed to fractured) – in short, “one.” But not an “echo chamber” sort of oneness – a familial, friendly, healthy sort of oneness. He envisioned a oneness that was so beautiful, it made unbelievers desire to become believers!
While churches may mentally connect “seeker-friendly” with compromising the truth, Jesus reached higher. He envisioned a communal love of truth that was naturally “seeker-friendly” and drew in outsiders. Jesus didn’t labor under the false burden that it was impossible to embrace both truth and kindness.
When it comes to the internet, the term “echo chamber” has arisen to describe the effect of joining communities of strictly like-minded people which tends to narrow people’s views increasingly. But it seems to be a problem for many churches, too.
Due in part to Obama’s shaming of Christianity, an inverse effect has happened inside the church. As the church loses its power with society, pastors suddenly find themselves with freakish powers over their particular congregations. Spiritual cabin fever sets in, and suddenly “questioning the pastor” becomes the highest sin in the book.
I, for one, do not feel that Sinai is an acceptable model for the church. It even seems that the underlying reason God didn’t allow Moses to enter the promised land may have been his emphasis on law over grace. His instance of yelling at the people and striking the rock to bring forth water (instead of simply speaking to it) may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for God (Num. 20:12; Deu. 1:37). I think God hates when we obfuscate that salvation is by grace through faith; and though Moses certainly served his predestined place in spiritual history, we have a better covenant now built on better promises and which clearly reveals that justification is by faith alone (Heb. 8:6; Rom. 3:24; 5:1).
We must remember, too, that the whole point of the law was to “shut us up” from self-righteous attempts at heaven, “unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed” (Gal. 3:22-25; Rom. 3:19-21ff). Therefore, to revert back to citing how the earth swallowed up dissenters of Moses in the Old Testament in order to maintain power as a pastor; seems, to me, a very dangerous idea. Are you as a pastor removing your flock from the sure foundation of Christ, and building on the shifting sands of legalism?
And it is exactly here that I can finally “begin” this article. Many churches suffer from being “echo chambers” in my opinion. Whether it is some Baptist churches ever suffering from a mushy, apolitical bent; whether it is some holiness churches, laboring under a works salvation mentality; whether it is so-called plain churches, with their obsessive requirement that everyone must interpret 1 Cor. 11:5 exactly as they do; or whether it is some black churches, that foster a mentality of gaming the system and embracing the Democrat party – so many churches today have become veritable echo-chambers!
Seriously, try simply talking about the relevant touchy issues in any such churches, and you’re labeled a schismatic and heretic whom the ground must immediately open up to swallow!
But such churches are thousands of years too late – Jesus has already come, and His religion brought “grace and truth” rather than Moses’ “law” (John 1:17) – indeed, I dare say that God never intended such things to be viewed as the true approach to God. Even under Moses, the spiritual path to God was faith – was justification by faith – belief in grace. Though legalism served a purpose, it was never the true path to God, and converts of the Old Testament were able to see this true intent of God behind the smoke and mirrors of legality, and simply trust Him for their salvation. No one in either dispensation earned their way to heaven.
In any event, I was glad to see a Catholic (bishop Schneider) speaking along these same lines. I’m not a Catholic, but what he said was so true. Disliking the atmosphere of fear created by the new Pope, he said, “the Church is a family where discussion is possible.” That sounds so self-evident, but he’s considered by many as a sort of “heretic” for daring to “undermine” the Pope. Well, the Pope undermined himself by failing to align with spiritual reality (I’m not saying on this issue which I haven’t studied, but on other issues which I have studied).
On the issue at hand (giving communion to adulterers), I personally would offer communion to whoever was gathered (how do you know who might or might not be an adulterer, liar, etc.??) – why do we think we’re responsible for what someone else does? If someone walked up, grabbed the communion out of a priest’s hands, and desecrated it by stomping on it, why is it the priest’s fault? It’s not. It’s the fault of the guy who desecrated it. But that is a digression.
The point is, many conservatives feel downright uncomfortable to even discuss things or to ask questions or to try to understand, inside the Catholic church. And they have good reason to feel that way, because they could be “put out” by the Pope!
But it’s too common in Protestant churches also. Obama, by publicly ridiculing Christianity, has inadvertently made pastors feel way too powerful over their congregations. We definitely have a case of many pastors that “lord it over” their flocks these days, contra 1 Pet. 5:3. I think many are simply confused and feel like they have to preach along such lines. But, confused or not, I think it’s time to realize our error and seek to change.
If we as Christians are to be winsome to the world, we have to be friendly to the world. And to do so, we must be accepted and appreciated in our churches. The attitudes of exclusion have to be replaced with brotherly benevolence. The legalisms of the heart have to be replaced with the gracious way God views His true-born children. ESPECIALLY after an antichrist like Obama has made Christianity so unpopular.
Let us lay aside the insolence, and strive to respect one another – especially those who have taken it upon themselves to stand for what is true. We are an army, and we MUST have comradery. We must especially lift up the arms of the guys holding the standard, not decry them as “schismatics.” And that is a reference to Moses that is most suitable even in our dispensation of grace (Ex. 17:11)!