Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Faction Effect

One result of the current divided state of the Christian church is that it can distort our spiritual lives. Sometimes it leads to complacency. We can believe that because we are part of a particular group, it automatically puts us in God's good graces. But we can also feel that because we are part of the right group, we need to show it by being obviously more spiritual than those ordinary Christians out there. We adopt certain rules or procedures to make ourselves holier, not just than the world, but also than other Christians. (We might question whether they really are Christians.) This used to be confined to different denominations. But while the denominational divisions have not gone away, there have grown up a plethora of other factions that people can attach themselves to. These involve philosophies or methodologies that people adopt for themselves which often transcend denominational lines. And again, we can feel that by being part of a certain group, however that group is defined, we are better Christians than those other Christians out there and we are obligated to prove it.

Now we must remember that we are saved by the grace of God (Romans 4:4,5; Ephesians 2:8,9; Philippians 3:9) and stand before God based on that grace (Romans 5:1,2; 8:31-34; Hebrews 4:14-16). And one of the results of this grace is to transform our lives so we become the people God wants us to be (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:11-14) and carry out God's work in the world (Colossians 1:28,29; 2 Corinthians 3:5,6; 1 Corinthians 3:5-7). But this is a process that takes place over time as God works in our lives (Philippians 3:12-16; 1 Timothy 4:7,8; Hebrews 5:11-14). Therefore, while we should encourage others to grow in Christ (Hebrews 10:24,25; 12:12,13; Ephesians 4:11-16), we need to avoid sitting in judgment on them (1 Corinthians 4:3-5; Romans 14:4; James 4:11,12. Now I am convinced we do need to correct clearcut sin or doctrinal error (Galatians 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:23-26; Matthew 18:15-20). But I am talking about the feeling that people are not fervent enough or are not doing enough or have not kept our list of dubious rules. Also, we are to admonish Christians to test themselves whether they are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5; Matthew 7:21-23; 13:36-43). But while there are cases where we are forced conclude someone was never a real believer (1 John 2:19), we are not encouraged to hunt such people out (Matthew 13:29,30). And we should remember that Lot and Samson, for all their deficiencies, are identified as genuine believers (2 Peter 2:7,8; Hebrews 11:32). But the bottom line is: I question that, of those who have the basic gospel message correct (1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Romans 1:16,17; Galatians 2:15-21), there is a faction that can claim blanket spiritual superiority over the others. Rather, the very existence of such divisions is scripturally dubious (1 Corinthians 3:1-4; Philippians 2:1-4; Ephesians 4:1-6).

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