32Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God (1 Corinthians 10:32)
Today is visited an acquaintance. We were supposed to be visiting the Healing Room Christchurch but it was closed because of the school holidays. Upon my arrival I saw his state of being was not too flash. He felt rejected by society and most of all by what are supposed to be his brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. Being the person whom he is, he did not blame or curse any off the people with whom he shares his faith; instead he wondered whether God had abandoned him and that as a result his fellow Christians were abandoning him.
I was reminded of some of the lessons I got when going through Law School. I thought back at how revealing it was to me that in law ot was not just what you did that could be legally relevant but also what you did not do: your omissions. Paul very eloquently does not use any words that could indicate actions, he uses the verb causing. Which could also mean omission or in-actions. Could it maybe be that this was not a case of abandonment by God but by fellow Christians?
Admittedly, a wrong impression may easily occur. But looking through Christian goggles, that still does not mean that this man does not deserve a chance, no matter how different and needy he may be. And speaking from personal experience; give this man a chance and you will find a beautiful creation with a considerable depth in terms of faith and spirituality, despite some mental/psychological/psychiatric background and problems. Personally I can say, I have learned a lot from my acquaintance with him first and foremost that THERE IS SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL IN EVERYONE IF WE ARE WILING TO LOOK FOR IT. But are we all looking for it? Or are we feeling more at ease with just staying at a distance.How sad is it really if a pastor from Auckland need to shop around and see whether there is a church that will accept this man for who he is?
Well what about your own church?
He does not want to go there any longer because of how he has been approached. He wouldn’t go there even if I tried to take him and believe me I will, again and again, despite his objections. What do you say to someone that cries out to you: “I have no church to go to anymore.” What do you say to someone that is experiencing a paradox daily as a resulted of the well meant but safe advice of fellow Christians.
You should be more amongst people.
However implicitly or explicitly it is also made clear that this does not include ‘the people’ that form part of the body of the ‘wise adviser.’ It all reminded me of the healing through Jesus, most of all the healing at the Pool of Bethesda. On several occasions people are urged by Jesus to go to the Temple. This is not so in the text of John 5 but thee a second encounter with the healed invalid takes place in the Temple. A number of the healings performed had a another significance: hey did not just mean a physical healing, but also a spiritual healing which ensured that people could be entering the temple again. People that were crippled, or had other physical or mental conditions were not allowed access to the Temple, the core of their faith as a result of the Mishnah, the laws for Israel derived from the scriptures. Jesus did not just physically heal them, he ensured that the could be reconciled with the core of their faith in God. It fits in perfectly with his mission, with the concept that God wants to reconcile with His creation and uses Jesus and so illustrative are the words
“See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (John 5: 14)
He did not say “Stay well” but “stop sinning.” At the same time how harsh a law that prevents people that need it the most to have entry to the core of their faith. What else is there left than to stumble? What else is there left than to think that ‘you are not worthy of God’s grace because God’s law ordains it’?
At the same time I now wonder what is harder for a man: being denied on the basis of a religious law that is supposedly put in place by people that knew what they were doing, or being denied by people that purportedly care about your health and well being also in the spiritual sense?
You’d be better of finding another church, you would not or do not fit in. You are better of where there are more people like you.
Is this not the word upside down, and certainly not in line with what Jesus was teaching? Paul, referenced at the start, continued:
For I am not seeking my own good, but the good of many so they many be saved.” (1 Corinthians 10: 33)
Do we need to fit in with the worldly standards of the congregation of who is acceptable and who is not or do we as a Body of Christ show the world that there is a place within the body for anyone and everyone no matter what their state of being is. Yes it may be inconvenient in worldly terms, bit is that a reason to deny access, whether explicitly or implicitly?
I could well imagine someone saying to me referring to 1 Corinthians 10: 13:
Well if this man is tempted to turn away from God because of out alleged actions and omissions should we not expect God to provide a way for this man to stand under this temptation?
My rhetorical answer would be:
You are absolutely right, but given what I said earlier on, could it maybe be that we as the church, as the body of Christ arre that way out if we are willing to face the inconvenient worldly truth that comes with that.
20For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. (1 Corinthians 4:20)
With that in mind as well as out claim to be living out the full Gospel what is holding us back to restore this man to a state where he is no longer denied the core of his faith.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
10“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. 11 “The son of man came to save what was lost (only according to some manuscripts)
12“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost. (Mathhew 18: 10-14)
Can we really look ourselves in the eye when we have to admit that it is our worldly standards rather than our spiritual that is keeping such a man away from a fellowship in Christ? Is it maybe time for a “gutter bucket” ministry? And if so, “why me?”
What am I to do? Your words of wisdom would be appreciated as I am lost in this all.