Thursday, April 2, 2015

Progressive Christianity: Changing People

The next chapter that I want to comment on in Ben Corey's Undiluted is titled 'Undiluted Change'. The main point here is simply that we should not focus on changing others but rather on changing ourselves. And, again, he relates this to his own story.
I finally accepted that I would be much happier if I just focused on myself and taking my own faith journey seriously and stopped worrying so much about everyone else.  
This happened when he was at seminary. He describes the turning point.
And what’s more than that, I began to see that all of these “others” were actually authentically following Jesus, even if their expressions of faith and doctrine looked different from anything I had previously considered.
So, Ben's world got bigger. There were more sincere Christians in it than what he had previously thought. As a result, he was less inclined to critique them, to react to what had been to him obvious heresies that he saw in their lives.

It's easy to understand why Ben included this topic in his book. There are, sadly, too many in the Church who are ready and even eager to point out errors in others. While this has been true throughout the history of the Church, I suspect that now that we are in the internet age it's gotten worse. Before you needed a pulpit or a printing press. Now, you don't.

This results in something that distracts a church from what it should be doing. Again, Ben speaks to this.
For far too long in much of American Christian Culture, our movement has been defined not by Jesus — but by who we think our “common enemy” is.
And so, a church can become increasingly defined by what it is against and not so much by what it is for. And that's a problem not merely because of what it says to those outside a church but more so because of what it says to those inside it.

Toward the end of the chapter Ben writes,
The message of Jesus was never intended to be diluted and simmered down into something that exists to change the other without first radically changing ourselves. However, once we are able to humbly accept that for many of us Christian culture has passed us down an Americanized Christianity that does exactly that, we are able to finally begin to break free and experience the true, intoxicating nature of the message of Jesus. A message that will radically change us if we will let it.
Ben is on to something. We need to get to know ourselves better. We need to see how far we still need to go when it comes to becoming mature disciples of Jesus. It is easy to point out where others fail, especially if we don't have to actually speak to them face to face. Seeing where we are failing is a step in the right direction. This is something that the Spirit does. He shows us who we really are. And part of that picture is our own failures to follow Jesus as well as we might. Part of the picture includes our sin. But thanks be to God that there is forgiveness for people like us.

Why Ben has written on this is obvious. But it is important that we not go too far in the other direction. Jesus speaks to this in an illustration that Ben briefly touches on in this chapter.
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. Matthew 7:3-5
Think about the picture that Jesus is painting here. You, with the log in your eye, are going to take out a little speck in your brother's eye? Really? I think that Jesus intended to make it silly to drive the point home. He is clear. You need to deal with your own sin first. That's not about becoming perfect. It's about honestly admitting your sin so that you can repent of it.

But did you notice that He doesn't stop there. You still need to 'take the speck out of your brother's eye'. The solution to being overly critical is not to simply deal with your own sanctification and say nothing to anyone else about theirs. Because we are the Body of Christ we need to help each other. And part of that will include, at times, pointing out someone else's sin. But there is a right way and a wrong way to do that. Jesus describes the right way. It's as we speak to each other in this way that the Church can become what she is supposed to be, the beautiful bride of Christ.