Rick and Giraffe. Beautiful points, both. Giraffe. This metaphor is starting to be funny to me. And irritating because I prefer to speak in more common terms.
Heretofore, since this is my blog, I prohibit the use of ENDLESS METAPHORS. We will only speak in plain words. Like all good Christianese…. You know, the man was enlightened and regenerated. He poured out his heart and regained his divine perspective, thusly his zeal was restored and he was on fire for his Creator… Willing to be refined through the sacrifice of praise and relieved of the bondage he endured while a slave to his fallen flesh… We talk like idiots sometimes don’t we. Should we offer CSL classes? Christianese (as a) Second Language?
I think the problem is largely with our understanding of the roles/gifts of the individual and how they best serve the body. As a partial example, I am in no way addressing all the gifts and how they apply…. Evangelists serve the body best by teaching G-d’s word and principles to those who seek. Prophets work best by assisting people and directing them toward the truth that “births” new life to them. Pastors work best when they are guiding and directing the flow of “traffic”. We get all jumbled and assume the method must fit within the culture. Obviously if our culture dictates a need for acceptance at any cost, a person who challenges the status quo and urgently speaks of the things we must let go of in order to live more fully the life G-d has for us will be looked upon sceptically. Prophets who are not trained and raised up by those more mature than themselves will, due to the passionate nature of the calling, fall all over themselves and break a few things before they grow up and learn to “walk gently and carry a big stick”. Evangelists who think merely talking about the truth is the same as truly instructing and guiding those who seek will find themselves frustrated by the lack of results. We talk about vision and discipleship and training. But that’s really only for the people who toe the party line and play well with others, isn’t it.
The Institutionalized Church doesn’t recognize the foundation it was intended to be set upon. Instead, the IC has taken 2000 years of tradition, cultural relevancy and personal preference and created a form of worship largely in it’s own image. This image has morphed to reflect more accurately the personality of the man up front, the denominational bent or even worse, the flavor of the sinful world around it.
No wonder the least likely observation about the Church is “Love” when Yeshua said plainly in John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” This is something the world cannot comprehend much less fulfill. But they sure do recognize it’s absence, don’t they.
Unfortunately, our concept and perception of what it actually means to love one another has also devolved into an emotional response to any given situation. “I love ice cream! I loved that song! I love being here! I love my children.” English is limiting, our culture is shallow and we have a collective attention span roughly the half life of a spark.
So, what does it mean to you to love your brother and sister? I don’t give many hugs. I’m not usually the one people run to for counsel and consolation. I don’t usually help people feel better when they talk to me. My friend Kris is fabulous at all that. Me? Not so much. I get awkward and crack stupid jokes. Yet, I do passionately love the people in my life! What do I do? I pray. I problem solve. I offer to help. I talk about difficult situations and don’t shy away from challenging behavior I find concerning. I buy groceries and clothes for kids. I’ve emptied my closet to give to a family with girls who had no new clothes for school. I spend hours of my time making sure the “behind the scenes” stuff gets done. Why? Because I look at the people in my life and I am, quite simply, overwhelmed with a zeal to serve their needs both spiritually (as G-d gives me wisdom and grace as well as opportunity). I am willing to minister to their physical needs as much as I am able. Do I say this to boast? No. I’m discovering love is summed up beautifully or shown as completely absent in the actions of believers. I am finding the hope I talk about using fancy words and interesting stories carries far less weight than my willingness to expend my time, my energy, my life for the service of Christ and the equipping, edifying and exhortation of His people.
We talk about love all the time in our congregations. Then we shoot the person who dares utter a word or take a stand that challenges our complacency or confront our behavior. Instead of evaluating and contemplating the issues raised, we shoot the messenger. This isn’t new, all the prophets of Israel suffered the same fate. Misunderstood, undervalued and largely ignored by their peers. We shouldn’t be surprised to find the same response today. As Ecclesiastes states, “there is nothing new under the sun.” As for apostles? They walk among the “dead”. Surely one would be a fool to expect uniform acceptance and rejoicing at their message, don’t you agree?
Giraffe, you asked the question, “I am a little confused about exactly what “allowing a wolf into the fold” would consist of.”
Special guest speakers without affiliation, accountability or verifiable reputation would cause me great concern. Allowing newcomers to your fellowship into positions of service without any sort of protocol or process to allow for the “testing of their faith” would create all kinds of problems. Having no system of accountability within leadership to keep us all honest and open before each other creates opportunities for abuse of the sheep.
To be completely fair, I think Roland was talking about the “worthless shepherds and bullying sheep” in Ezekiel 34 when he referred to wolves within the congregation. I differ in my definition of wolf/sheep because I find it extremely dangerous ground to begin labeling anyone who calls on the name of the Lord anything but sheep until such a time as their lives have shown them to be something else entirely. Am I making sense? That’s a determination I simply can’t make without a) knowing the person or person’s myself or b) understanding a great deal about the situation in which they are involved. Even then, I would eagerly pray for and hope for repentance, restitution and restoration. What an amazing testimony it is to see G-d work in lives that would have otherwise been completely wasted on selfish ambition and pursuit.