Monday, May 29, 2006

Clanging Cymbals

What is the measure of maturity in the Christian life?

Knowledge, spiritual gifting, discernment, understanding, revelation?

I believe these are the qualities that have been held up as the standards of maturity in our churches.

What would change in our lives, our communities, and our churches if love was held up as the highest measure of maturity, the standard of growth and success?

Coming from the charismatic realm, growth in revelation and spiritual gifting was important. I'm not saying these things aren't important, but if they take a back seat to love, they're nothing.

Sitting behind us in church yesterday was a couple from our former church. They are struggling with the fact that a family was recently excommunicated from their church. The husband in this family is being set up as an example of those who deserve to be removed, those who interfere with community.

I wondered about the family sitting behind us, knowing that they would be dealing with the idea that this church is beneath their level of spiritual maturity. I can't tell you how often I've heard the phrase, "But they don't believe in the gifts."

What if spiritual gifts aren't the truest measure of maturity in the kingdom?

In the blogosphere I've seen another example of this with the heresy hunters. The standard that they live by is "absolute truth." But what good is contending for the truth without love. I'm not saying that biblical knowledge and understanding aren't important, but if they take a back seat to love, they're worthless.

As the heresy hunters diligently strive to protect the world from false teaching and error, is it possible that they have slipped into greater error? So often I sense in their writing a fear of including someone undeserving in fellowship, someone who hasn't measured up to the mark. What if a greater mistake would be excluding someone that God wants us to love?

What if correct doctrine isn't the truest measure of maturity in the kingdom?

Today, I am brought back to the statement from Corinthians:
"If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." I Corinthians 13:2

So, who is mature?

"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom." James 3:13

15 comments:

David Cho said...

Great post, Grace. Incidently, love is what I will be my focus in the next essay in my series.

Well, everything you write, the heresy hunters have heard it all, and they have tightly scripted answers for it.

rich said...

Bravo!!! This was fantasic post Grace and really put to words something I've gone over and over in my mind...

Robbymac said...

Are we sharing a brain here (again)???

I've been thinking, and now am writing, on the same thing. Thanks for your insights, and I think your conclusion is dead on!

Jim said...

Grace...the difference between "heresy hunters" and doing one's best to follow truth is exactly that which you bring forth. Anything less is void of Him and indicative of our having gotten off-track. Great post, ma'am..........

Adam said...

Well said. You point out a great distinction.

How we live our lives, how we interact with others, the depth of our love (which is all of the above) - much better measuring sticks.

Thanks for the reminder.

Trailady said...

Amen Sister! I couldn't have said it ANY better. We are thinking along the same lines. Please read my most recent post and comment. Would love to have your feedback on this topic...

Trailady said...

PS. I have blog-rolled you. :o)

Brett said...

I think this post is based on a false dichotomy. Love and truth are not antithetical. "Love rejoices in the truth." Re. church discipline, disfellowshipping an impenitent sinner after the other 3 stages prescribed by Jesus in Matt. 18 are complete is the loving thing to do.

grace said...

David,
I'm looking forward to your next post about this.

thanks rich!

robby,
I'd love to share a brain with you, but I'm afraid you'd get the worse end of that deal. :)

thanks jim, great comment.

hi adam,
It's sad and scary that we can sometimes push toward "maturity" and neglect the most necessary element.

trailady,
I've commented at your place. It's interesting that we'd be on the same wave today.

hi brett,
I didn't intend to set up truth and love as a dichotomy. I do believe that truth without love is meaningless, and it isn't really even truth because truth embodies love, and as you said love rejoices in truth and should be an expression of grace and truth.

I believe matt 18 is often wrongly interpreted as condemnation and shaming. I believe it is a prescription for restoration, forgiveness, and love. Notice it's positioning in the chapter preceded by the parable of the lost sheep and followed by the parable of the unmerciful servant.

What if to treat someone as a "pagan and a tax collector" means to love them and extend mercy. It seems to me that is how Jesus treated pagans and tax collectors.

This is how I see it. What do you think? Thanks for your thought-provoking comments.

Pam Hogeweide said...

see my comments on next post about Matt 18...I especially hope Brett will read it.

Brett said...

I agree with you on the ultimate purpose of Matt. 18:15-17, including the last stage, namely restoration as opposed to penalization, rehabilitation rather than retribution. I find it curious that in your description of mercy for the impenitent person in question you do not mention the more obvious immediate purpose, that is, disciplinary disfellowshipping. Re. the surrounding context, the preceding parable of the lost sheep in no way negates the negative consequences of impenitence. And surely dissociation is not alien to the follow up parable of the unforgiving servant (see vv.34-35). To be sure in Matt. 18 treating a recalcitrant individual with mercy requires the church to persevere in reaching out to call him or her to repentence and back into fellowship. But as a last resort Jesus is commanding a form of dissociation by the church. 2 Thess. 3:14-15 also sustains this tension of dissociation and ongoing appeal. This is how I envision last stage church discipline as an act of love.

grace said...

brett,
Very well thought out comments. I simply don't see disciplinary disfellowshipping as the purpose of that passage. I believe I understand your point of view, and I'm aware that is the common understanding.

I've actually been involved several times as a witness and supporting authority (tool) in that type of church discipline "as an act of love." It still doesn't sit right with me.

On this particular passage, I'm willing to take a heretical stance and say that I don't agree with the common interpretation of that passage.

It isn't possible for me to reconcile in my heart that exclusion is an act of love or a furthering of the gospel of the kingdom.

I hope you know that I am open to friendly disagreement about this or any other topic here.

Brett said...

It's ok then, with feet like yours, you can walk all over me. lol

grace said...

You mean brett of the intelligent scriptural comments and brett of the shallow feet comments are the same person?! gasp

Brett said...

LOL How cheeky !! Maybe I'm a podiatrist! Re. Matt. 18 I guess I felt 'de-feeted.'