Divisive “discerners”

I used to be one.

But I repented. It finally dawned on me that God had never appointed me to be a member of the doctrine police.

Just this morning I ran across a comment I posted on some blog two years ago. I’ve forgotten the particular blog or the discussion, but I’d saved my comment. Here it is, with slight edits:

In what has come to be called Jesus’ high priestly prayer, offered in the hours leading up to His crucifixion, He prayed, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

We cannot claim to love Jesus Christ if we do not share His heart for unity. Are we truly one with others in the Body of Christ or do we cause the world to sneer at our disunity, disagreements, bickering, and sniping at one another?

God forgive me for the times I have been divisive under the guise of “discernment”!

But, wait — doesn’t God require us to disassociate from brethren who teach what I am convinced are wrong things?

“But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler – not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)

Notice what’s missing on the list: teaching or believing theological error or false doctrine.

“But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” (Titus 3:9-11)

We are also to avoid those who stir up division with controversies and quarreling over the Word of God, especially the law — because it is warped and sinful to do such a thing! Again, may God forgive me for the times when I was guilty of such terrible behavior, and so far from the mind of Christ that I actually thought I was protecting His Body, rather than attacking it.

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:21-26)

Lest you think this applies only to local churches, please be aware that Christ has one Body — one Bride — and not multiple ones.

Although I disagree with a number of things I read on blogs or hear in sermons, it is not for me to judge the salvation of the authors and thus I cannot say, “I have no need of them.” Instead, I must honor them as Christ would have me do — even in the face of disagreements that are probably irreconcilable this side of Heaven.

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6)

Confession

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

– James 5:16

 

“There is no form of therapy, no technique, no method, that even comes close to being as healing as the simple and courageous act of becoming truly and honestly open with another human being, and then being fully accepted by them in return.”

– Matt Atkinson

During my years of therapy, I eventually spilled everything, all my deepest darkest secrets, all my worst thoughts and deeds. There was much healing in that, far more healing than I had dared hope for. But something was missing…and, as a Baptist Preacher’s kid, what I longed for seemed crazy at times, the result of watching too many old movies, of having an overwrought imagination, of longing for the impossible…

My spiritual journey has been taking me into the Anglican Church. So on two different afternoons I found myself at a coffee shop with the priest, pouring out my story to him. The telling took two installments. It was a confession of sorts — he was even wearing his collar.

But something was missing, and by then I knew what it was.

Our particular flavor of Anglicanism believes in and practices the Sacrament of Confession. So I went last Saturday for my first ever real confession. I’d prepared prayerfully, and I felt an overwhelming grief over the enormity of my sins, even though I’d confessed most of them to God and fully believed myself to be forgiven.

It was not exactly how I’d always imagined from childhood on…I didn’t slip into some beautiful cathedral and find myself in one of those mysteriously beautiful wooden confessional booths, separated from a priest who seemed to always be there, hidden in the shadows, just waiting to hear my confession.

It was more simple…two chairs back to back. I faced the altar in our little church, where I could see the Crucifix.

That broke my heart. My beautiful Savior…

I confessed.

The priest said the perfect words. He stood in the place of Christ for me, because that is what the Church and its ministers are supposed to do and be — we are supposed to be the Body of Christ, His representatives here on earth.

He gave me penance…not punishment, not a “work” to “earn” forgiveness, but ways in which I can better care for my soul.

The whole thing was far more emotional than I expected. And it wasn’t as hugely and immediately transformative as I’d always imagined, when I used to tell people — only halfway joking — that I wouldn’t have needed years of therapy if I’d had a priest to confess to.

But as I was processing the whole thing, after I’d done my first act of penance (which seemed more like a wonderful reward and blew my preconceived notions of penance right out the window) it suddenly struck me that I felt cleaner somehow…lighter…a greater sense of freedom.

Forgiveness was no longer a theological concept. It was real. It had a voice, not just any voice, but a voice that spoke authoritatively. (Yes, I still believe in the priesthood of all believers, but I also believe in…well, in the priesthood.) Forgiveness had emerged from the abstract and from words on a page — even from sacred words on sacred pages — and had become immediate, here and now, part of the physicality and reality of my everyday life.

The next day I had the awesome privilege of doing the reading from the Old Testament and the Epistles during Mass. It’s been years since I’ve read Scripture out loud during a church service; there isn’t as much of a call for that in most protestant evangelical churches. But I remember that, each time before, I approached the responsibility with great fear and trembling, not out of nervousness about reading out loud in front of people, but out of a sense of inadequacy. I am a woman of unclean lips…how dare I read God’s Word in church? Yesterday I still had a sense of reverance and responsibility, but I knew my lips were clean. I felt much joy.

Partaking of the Eucharist was even more precious than ever.

Today I sent a text to my priest, wanting to make sure that he knows that I want to be confirmed in the Anglican Church when our bishop visits us in January. As I was sending the text, I joked to myself, Haha, after hearing my confession, Father Chris is going to tell me that I should wait several years until I’m hopefully less of a vile sinner! but then I remembered:

I’m forgiven.

The Bible says so. My priest says so. The Church says so. The saints and angels say so. Most importantly, God says so. He has always said so, but now…now I know.

Open letter to the Vice President

In light of yesterday’s events, I felt compelled to email the White House. I’ve met some refugees from both Syria and Iraq, and I’ve heard how difficult it was for them to enter our country. It is a lie that they were not adequately vetted. I know people, who minister to Yazidi refugees, and who have heard — and seen the physical evidence of — the atrocities they have suffered. I spent yesterday reading accounts of people with visas and green cards being turned away from our country and, in some cases — even at least one case where the U.S. had been a person’s legal home for years.

This is the email that I sent to our Vice President:

Dear Mr. Pence,

I believe you are a man of prayer. That is why I beg you to pray earnestly over the plight of refugees, especially the Yazidi who are facing genocide. I pray that God would grant you compassion, wisdom, and boldness to speak truth to President Trump in this matter and the many other matters that will arise in the days, months, and years to come. I pray that your pro-life stance would make you willing to lay down your life — even your political career and vice presidency if need be — on behalf of the least of these, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the sojourner, the widows, the orphans, and all those God has called us to serve.

Call me naive, but I don’t understand why fighting ISIS means one should force their victims to return to where they were terrorized so that they can be further victimized.

As a rape survivor, I can’t help thinking that it’s somewhat like claiming to be anti-rape and tough on rapists while slamming the door in the face of rape victims seeking help: “I know you were promised a safe place to heal, but that was my predecessor who made that promise. And I’m tough on rape! How do I know you’re not a rapist? Go back to where you were raped.”

We’re actually doing that, as a country, to women fleeing ISIS.

May God have mercy. May we have mercy.

Thank you for your prayerful consideration to this urgent matter.

Rebecca Prewett

Dear “Evangelical” Spokespeople:

This has been perplexing and, to be frank, grieving me for months.

Some years back, you convinced me that “character counts” in a presidential candidate, that our government leaders should demonstrate “family values”, and that a man who could not be trusted to remain faithful to his wife could not be trusted to lead our country. You convinced me that womanizers and immoral men were unfit for the highest office in our land. You convinced me that our president was a role model for our children, and that we should not elect anyone whose conduct and speech we did not want our children to emulate.

You were so convincing that I not only  believed you then, but still do.

Now you you tell me that we are not electing a pastor-in-chief, and that I should ignore everything you insisted upon previously. You accuse me of being a Pharisee for not wanting to vote for Trump, and of being ungodly for still clinging to the old standards.

What made you change your mind? Or were you not truly convinced of those things in the first place? Were you wrong then — or now? And, if you were wrong then, it would help me a lot to hear your sincere apology for misleading me, and your explanation for why you have abandoned what I thought were genuine principles and convictions. You have failed to convince me that I should follow your lead in voting for your favored candidate. Simply calling me a self-righteous, unforgiving legalist isn’t cutting it.

Frankly, I’m confused. What is the new “evangelical” standard supposed to be for supporting a presidential candidate? Hold your nose, go against everything you’ve said and believed, and vote for the Republican no matter what? Never vote for a Clinton? Abandon all previously held principles just because a proven liar makes semi-promises about who he may possibly nominate to the Supreme Court?

And what does any of this have to do with evangelicalism?

God have mercy.

Ugh…politics…

Rarely if ever do I blog about politics but, then again, few things rile me up as much as blasphemy or false messiahs. Since I just posted this on Facebook, I figured I might as well post it here too:

I don’t like to post political stuff, but I feel compelled to speak up. No election in my lifetime has frightened me as much as this one, but today topped it all for me.

Christians I know and like are posting links to a blasphemous, scary article and — rather than denouncing it or getting offended — are actually voicing agreement with it. In the article, the author quotes one of my all-time favorite Scripture passages, which is from Isaiah 40. He quotes verses 30-31 in this manner:

“Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” 

Then the author proceeds to claim, “It’s almost like God created this verse for Donald Trump and this moment in history.”

That awful statement alone should horrify any student of Scripture or anyone who claims to believe in the God of the Bible. But it gets worse. 

I have no idea who Wayne Allyn Root, the author of this travesty, is. At the beginning of his article, he identifies himself by writing: “I am a Jew turned evangelical Christian. I am also a passionate supporter of Donald Trump.” I would argue, based on this article, that he is no longer an evangelical Christian but now believes in Trump as his messiah. Mr. Root seems to believe that it is now Trump, and no longer God, who renews our strength, and who enables us to mount up with wings like eagles. 

I wish I was kidding or that Mr. Root had written a tasteless satire, but unfortunately that doesn’t appear to be the case. In his “message for Christians”, he tries to convince us that “Trump is our energy”; “Trump renews our strength”; “With Trump we mount up with wings like eagles”; and, “With Trump we run, we are not weary”.

Sorry, those of my friends who are Trump fans, but that sounds like blasphemy to me. Trump is not God. Isaiah 40:31,32 is not a prophecy that Trump is fulfilling. “The Donald” may think he is America’s savior, and he may have convinced you of that, but he is not our messiah, not our God, not our Savior.

I’m beginning to think that this election is causing people to take absolute leave of their senses. What sort of bizarre hold does Trump have over this misguided and deluded author that he would write something so terrible while claiming to be a Christian — and why are my Christian friends not outraged at what he has written?

You can read the blasphemy in context here: http://m.townhall.com/columnists/wayneallynroot/2016/06/24/a-message-for-christians-about-donald-trump-n2182796