Monday, November 29, 2010

Eyes and Hands

Playing catchup on our Mere Churchianity discussion group with Glynn Young and Nancy Rosback. I'm a week behind and hope to catch up with another post either this evening or tomorrow. For the discussion on Chapter 15, "The Good and Bad of Being Alone," be sure to visit (or re-visit) Faith, Fiction, Friends and NancieMarie. Meanwhile you can check out their thoughts on the latest chapter here and here (but don't spoil it for me!),  Melissa at In Silence, Humming Softly has also joined the discussion so be sure to check out her thoughts as well.

"The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don’t need you!' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don’t need you!'" (1 Corinthians 12:21)

Unity but not uniformity. Community but not conformity. Sounds nice, but sadly is rarely seen. Authentic Christian community offers an uncomfortable paradox: one one hand, we are all parts of one body commanded through dozens of 'one another' passages in the Bible; on the other hand, we are all given unique gifts and talents to be used to advance the Church. We are expected in Christ to be part of a collective while forging our own path of faith. Oftentimes, churches do not know how to handle this delicate balance, so they err to the side of homogeneity. And free-thinkers, as Michael Spencer describes, are often forced out.

I don't agree with Michael's depiction of Jesus in this chapter, but I do see his point. I don't believe Jesus was a solitary man. Yes, he often sought solace, but that was for recharging himself spiritually. He poured himself into those closest to him, yet he intentionally kept that number small. A theme I continue to oppose in this book is the notion of Christianity without community. I just don't think you can survive spiritually that way and I think the instructions to the Church we read in the Bible bare that out.

But, we also cannot fall into the temptation to be a conformist or a yes-man and identify our spirituality by our fellowship rather than our own faith. The Body of Christ is not made of only feet or hands as 1 Corinthians 12 describes. We need our own faith, our own relationship with Christ, our own struggles with God in prayer. And sometimes that might mean walking away from the structure, the system.

It's a delicate balance, as I said, and I'm sure we all have stories of how we've had to "fight the power" so to speak. I won't belabor this point, but do encourage you to read Glynn Young's post on this subject linked above. His story is too close to mine for it to be worth sharing again.


Alise said...

I totally agree that it can be hard to be a free-thinker in the Church. My experience is that (generally) it's okay to have "deviant" thoughts, but the message from the front of the stage is going to be one of conformity.

But I think that's true of pretty much EVERY group, not just Christianity. Not entirely sure how to avoid that.

Fatha Frank said...

Alise, that's a good point. Any group faces the temptation of groupthink and our nature to want to fit in fights against our nature to have our own opinions. I think the key within the Church is to approach both extremes with humility, willing to hear others' opinions and convictions while humbly communicating your own. It's environments where this communication is discouraged that we get into trouble. Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

balance is a word that has been coming to me, over and over again, in the last few weeks.

i like your suggestion about humility in your last comment to alise.

i think humility probably plays a huge role toward balance in all areas of life. and surely, communication and community go together like gloves in a glove compartment.

starting with humility before our Lord.

yesterday, i imagined that all of my thoughts to myself, might be tied-up or connected with speaking to God. well, surely, i thought, that God knows what i think to myself...and of course sometimes my thoughts are for God, but, the two are so very similar. it makes me consider my thought process a bit more.

anyway... enough comment space taken.

thanks for posting on this.