Thursday, September 27, 2007

Necessary, but not Sufficient


Here's the class material from Wed September 26:

People are always looking for a single answer to complicated problems, but here’s a principle I want us to think about: “Necessary, but not Sufficient” So let’s look at some examples of what I mean. We’ll start easy and get harder with each one. Is oxygen necessary for life? Is it sufficient/enough? Obviously not. What about clinical depression – is a church environment necessary for happiness if you are a Christian? Yes, but it’s not sufficient? You need medication as well. Is love necessary for fulfillment in a marriage? Obviously, but there has to be more, so it’s not sufficient. Is scripture necessary to guide us and provide answers? Is it sufficient? I would say no. We deal with many issues that scripture does not address. Is a relationship with God necessary for peace and happiness? Is it sufficient? Most people want to say yes, but if all mankind needed was God, then Eve would not have been created as a helper for Adam. Clearly, God wasn’t enough for Adam! Is baptism necessary for salvation? Yes. But is it sufficient? No! Without faith, confession, repentance, and discipleship, you’re just wet, not saved!

So, concerning salvation, the church has typically “sold” salvation as a promise of heaven when you die – an escape mechanism from this world. The problem is that not once, in the gospels, does Jesus ever define salvation this way! Read these examples from Luke. Look at how Jesus uses the word “saved.” Luke 7:36-50; 8:40-48; 19:1-10. Salvation in the gospel is more than the promise of heaven when you die. It is not an escape from this world – it is peace, joy, healing, restoration of relationships, a new standing in the community! So what does salvation look like in our world/ culture? A divorced woman with 2 kids? A person in abject poverty? Someone dying of Aids in Africa? A busy couple in the metroplex who work 60 hrs a week? Someone abused as a child?

8 comments:

Brian England said...

When looking at Jesus' physical healings, I cannot help but ask--what was the real miracle? The fact he raised the dead, stopped bleeding, made the lame walk and cured leprosy? Or, was it the fact he was able to restore relationships because of his miracles? I believe he was more concerned with the latter but because of Jewish culture he couldn't get there without the physical healings.

In addition to the examples you mentioned, I am always mindful of Peter and John healing the man sitting at the gate of the temple, lame for 39 years. Every day he set outside the temple at the gate until the day he was healed. Acts 3 says when he was healed he stood up and walked INTO the temple with Peter and John. He no longer had to sit outside. He could now fully participate in his Jewish religion. Seems to me, that was the real miracle. No one could ever question again whether it was him or his father that had sinned to cause him to be lame.

I think a really convicting question for us church of christers is how do we minister in this way to the divorced woman with 2 kids. What can we do for them so that they feel like they belong in the community? How do we remove the stigma that we have placed on them? Ok, thats easy.
Lets try this one on for size: how about homosexuals? Are we to keep them at the gates until they make the decision to quit practicing their lifestyle or do we exercise the patience that we show the occasional ohabitating unmarried couple that visits with us? I doubt we would be quite as patient and accepting. Lets just keep those types at the temple gate. We'll give them our drive-by prayers and never really engage them in community.

Here's another one (brings back a bad teaching memory for me): how do we heal and minister to the people that our culture stigmatizes--child molestors. Is there any way to responsibly make them a full participant in the community of faith? C'mon, I mean really. We do not want to give them complete access and allow them to just walk in. Lets keep them at the gates as well. We can give them alms and bless them as we walk by. Surely we are not called to stop and invite them in and befriend them. Who else do we keep at the gates? More importantly, who else do we WANT at the gates and do not want to truly befriend? I know I have my lists.....

Kerrie said...

In my life salvation has been a growing changing refining process in me and it has hurt. But the salvation is in the here and now and not something I have had to wait on till I'm dead and back in the arms of my Savior in heaven. When my relationship in Jesus was restored in my early 30's and the layers of lies in my life were exposed and dealt with, the healing I received had very little to do with the depression being gone but in being able to fully love people, to openly and honestly experiece joy in this life and to experience a deep peace that my new identity was in Christ. The freedom was and at times continues to be almost overwhelming. I'd been a "Christian" since I was baptized in a cold Colorado stream late one night at camp age 12 (Yes Charles, it was an emoitional decision but a planned one). But the most profound knowledge of my salvation and effects of it were not fully recognized till God had brought me through the fire as he continued my salvation process. I can absolutely witness to the thoughts that the promises of God can be received now and we don't have to wait till heaven. Bryan, I think those of us that have had stigmas associated with lots of shame are responsible to seek out others like you mentioned. If we refuse to reach out and disciple others...if we can't use our own experiences of pain and the blessings of accepting God's grace to bring others to him then our pain is in vain (I think I just made a rhyme). I personally committed to the Lord many years ago in this very way, that my pain would not be in vain and He continues to bring the stigma filled people my way. We can't remove the stigmas from them...but we can lead them, one by one, to the source of a new identity that they can decide or not to decide to put on. That is where the disciping kicks in that Charles discussed Sunday. By the way...the blessings of watching people accept God's grace and forgiveness is worth every ounce of pain I went through.

Sorry if I got a little preachy, just had some strong thoughts:)

mike holder said...

Charles,
I really enjoyed the discussion Wednesday night. We have been having these talks for sometime but somehow the thoughts and meanings had not truely formed in my head. The class helped me wrap my head around it much better and lead to a good discussion with my teenagers about relevance. It is sometimes so hard to show our children how this "church stuff" is relevant in today's world when we continue to place such a premium on what happens at the building. Sure they see the things we do in private as service to others but they also see people in the world do those things. We have got to do a better job of being culturally relevant and building or restoring community to those that don't necessarily look, act and beleive like we do. Our time at the building is necessary but not sufficient to establish the relevance of the church in our children.

Dr Bill said...

In the Methodist church I'm not sure we ever talk about what salvation in our lives looks like. It's an interesting thought for me. I guess I see myself as a struggling Christian instead of a 'saved' Christian. To me, this means that I am still in the process of santification. Yes, I claim God's grace and know that it trumps evil. However, salvation is a word that is a bit foreign to me.

The questions of what salvation looks like in others, maybe more marginalized people in our culture, is very interesting. I guess the essential factor boils down to being in relationship, with God, and hopefully his people.

Our job as sensitive Christians is to be open to relationship. I agree with other comments in this area. There is a fine line between accepting the person and accepting their behavior. This follows along the lines of membership in the church and leadership in the church. Someone has to take a stand and call the behavior for what it is when it is sinful.... This is my opinion.

I also like the idea of relevancy of salvation to our culture. What does that look like in our kids' lives, in their parents' lives, etc? With the level of stress in our world, I wonder if salvation would translate into some kind of peace, stability, or grounding rod that others have not....

Brian England said...

Bill, I think you're right about there being a fine line between being accepting of a person and accepting their immoral behavior. If I'm honest with myself, I seem to always be on the opposite side of the line where Jesus seemed to dwell. More significantly, I choose not to be in a true authentic relationship with the marginalized. The times I've had relationships with such people they looked a lot more like the guy sitting at the gate of the temple who was never able to be a fully integrated member of the faith community so he just waited for their "scraps." I guess I've always been content with just keeping the "relationship" casual and very distant--keeping them at the gate.

I actually thought about you and Randy Harris in class Wednesday night when Charles made the statement "a relationship with God is necessary but not sufficient" (referring to God creating humans with the intention for them to be in relationship with each other and not just with Him-"It is not good for man to be alone"). For the monk types like you and Randy who get charged up by weekends of silence and meditation at monestaries, how much do you really buy into the notion that a relationship with God is not sufficient? For that matter, for those who get charged up by constant interaction with other people, how much do they buy into the idea that the spiritual disciplines are necessary?

Dr Bill said...

Yeah, I think God works through the individual in helping them figure out their path to salvation. For the extrovert, it may mean learning how to practice inner disciplines and for the introvert, the path to salvation may mean practicing the corporate disciplines. I hear the scripture more often speak of the value of the individual life and have erred on the side of hearing how we need to be an active member of the body of Christ. It's only in the past few years have I really embraced the body and my need for it.

Kerrie said...

I believe that God desires to bring us to a point in our own lives where we see our own sinfulness, the log that is in our own eye that Jesus talks about. In the church we have had a history of seeing those outside our walls…those at the gate as the “real sinners.” We assume that we are the righteous and only have a speck of sin in comparison to others. When we can read and understand the writing in the sand that Jesus scratched out for the accusers of the woman brought before him in adultery, and comprehend how far from perfection and how undeserving of his grace we are, then I believe the gulf and line that separates us from reaching out to “those at the gate” those “stigma filled people” becomes a matter of a few steps, and an outstretched hand. In humbling ourselves & recognizing our own need for God’s grace we can then make Christianity relevant in our community and reach those at the gate

Charles North said...

Thanks for all the comments. I have been reading it all. We've just been up to our eyeballs closing on the house, so I've not had a lot of time to add to the discussion.