Christian Jealousy and the Body
Posted on June 18, 2013
This following post feels a little more vulnerable than my usual offering, and that’s because it’s an edited version of a personal journal entry.
The local bus into town is a great meeting place for my neighbours, so I try to ride it instead of driving the car. On my last ride in, a neighbour couldn’t wait to tell me about the weekend at the charismatic church he attends. An American speaker had been invited and he’d spoken over 3 evenings. Details aside, he and a number of friends had experienced the Spirit of God in an intimate and forceful fashion, so that he could not but be motivated to practice his faith more authentically and practically. In his words, there was ‘revival’.
Good news, eh!
Except, the whole conversation, I had to keep my ‘cynical smile’ off my face, and make sure my ‘authentic smile’ kept shining. What lives inside me that draws back from this kind of story, yet at the same time desires it, and at the same time is angry about it?
I think it is simple jealousy. Such ‘revival’ seems so much more real and exciting than our plain little gathering at St Matthew’s. Though our congregation is filled with life, I can’t imagine revival of the kind my friend experienced, but I’d like a tad of it. After he got off the bus, I sat there stewing in anger and disappointment: at my cynical and selfish attitude, and maybe a little at God.
Why does God not ‘honour’ our hacking away patiently for 9 years in Long Gully? Why don’t our efforts have people following Jesus in their dozens? These are the possible answers I can come up with:
- That God has ‘turned his face away’ from us because of some wrongdoing of ours.
- That we are doing things in a way contrary to the ways of the kingdom of God
- That we play a different part in the kingdom of God.
I simply discount the first response, because though it resonates emotionally, I think it is biblically false. The second response may be true, but we’re doing things according to our best knowledge of what Jesus is on about, so I’m reasonably happy with that. I’m generally unhappy to attribute our apparent lack of ‘success’ to these first 2 responses because they both place too much emphasis on the correctness of our lives and choices. Holiness and conformity to God’s will is important but not crucial to the kingdom.
That leaves the ‘body of Christ’ response. That is, Paul argued (most famously in 1 Corinthians 12) that the church is composed of different parts that, when all playing their role, produce a healthy community. Like a body that is mostly eyes, the church becomes dysfunctional when all its members attempt to be something they are not called to be. Thus not all churches are meant to emulate the same style, nor the same activities and not even the same theology.
Though I don’t want to claim immunity from the welcome challenges that another church brings, I want to be clear about our specific vocation, and not try to be something that we are not.
Somehow we need to dialogue and debate without assimilating.