Sunday, August 01, 2010

TorahBlog: TorahBytes: Backwards Logic (Re'eh)

TorahBlog: TorahBytes: Backwards Logic (Re'eh)

Today's TorahBytes (probably unintentionally) references one of the most common and irritating un-Christlike behavior in groups calling themselves Christians...

Many 'churches' judge people based on the appearance of success, worldly popularity, fame, political power, wealth and/or social gossip.... as long as someone vaguely makes some claim towards Christianity and is hawt, rich, famous, well-connected, and/or has many supporters in their social network, they will have a lot more clout with most of these worldly 'Christians' than a modern-day Elijah would.

They'd never admit it, but variations on the argument this Rabbi made work with most of them most of the time. All favor is considered Godly favor (despite all the verses in scripture to the contrary), and all reverses of the poor & unpopular become 'proof' that the person deserves sneering contempt rather than real help, prayer support, and caring compassion. A couple loses a child in an accident, and are treated as though they were guilty of deliberate murder. A missionary is martyred...he/she must have made a misstep and got out of Christ's protection. A child is abused...and slandered by the 'respectable' abuser (its common for an abuser to discredit their victim in a shared society) ...must be a rotten kid/dangerous adult. A Christian business has troubles; it must be because they had 'secret failings' that are now catching up with them.

Only obvious innocents (i.e. babies with cancer) don't have murmurings like this aimed at them (though its sometimes merely redirected to their parents.)

The shocker (for the cultural Christian) in the TorahBytes blog is hearing Christ Himself treated this way...

       This is because that Rabbi doesn't regard Christ as a proven Holy person, the only definite grown-up non-sinning mental and physical adult  the world has ever seen. He sees Christ as a proven 'loser' who lacked favor with God and man and suffered accordingly. So what sounds outrageous to one raised with the understanding of Jesus as the Son of God, makes perfect sense to him. This is how a lot of people saw Jesus in his own time, and how a lot of people see his followers today.

       God has not seen fit to grant ALL His faithful followers great wealth on Earth while they grow rewards for faithfulness in Heaven, despite the huge promises of prosperity doctrine. Do you know the Apostles themselves remained worldly 'losers' while they preached on Earth? They were given great spiritual gifts of healing, prophecy, and other mighty powers, the early church had property they shared communally, but their personal purses tended to remain small. The Apostle Paul had to stop and earn further traveling money with his hands at times. The brilliant scholar who studied under Gamaliel made tents for pin money. That didn't pay much.

     But, while every believer (and certainly every trained pastor!) who grew up reading the scriptures know these things, prosperity doctrine has retained its power in most church social settings, reflecting the world's obsession with wealth and rank back into the body of Christ. The implicit insult to Christ, the prophets, and the Apostles is simply ignored, as though they were in another category entirely from how we should see one another. We are supposed to be encouraging each other to express the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our daily walk. If our lives instead express the fruits of a carnal mind daily, we are in trouble. Either way, our bank accounts aren't the largest part of that equation.

     But back among the carnal Christians, too many financial reverses will guarantee in most 'winner'/'loser'-minded sets that you are both easily judged and unpopular before very long. They may have liked you fine when your life was going well, but they don't want to drain their own resources helping you or look bad for suddenly they don't know you so well. Maybe you did something that made you fall, eh? Any and all of life's little pleasures may be judged insufficiently Godly, be it mystery books, movies, video games, or a preoccupation with a sports team. Part of this is an animal desire to avoid the invisible predator that got the other monkey.  Part of it is a cowardly desire to ease personal guilt by putting the blame on the victim.

      Backwards-logic, unchallenged, leads to Bertha BetterThanYou getting enshrined at the top of the social pecking order....and, boy, does she ever peck... the sores of others. ..because she believes they prove that she is morally as well as socially superior. She therefore feels very free to judge others proper place in the local social hierarchy, and deciding whether anyone is 'deserving' of compassion goes right along with that attitude.

     She and her cronies then decide who 'deserves' sympathy and who 'had it coming.'  Health challenges are generally judged by how connected and/or popular parishioners were prior to onset of symptoms.  With their reminders-  popular, well-off, and/or powerful folks may get a TON of sympathy, visits from the pastor, support cards etc...which generally helps them stay their church's cause of the week, and stay  well-connected.  Meantime quieter folks have to be content with a mention in the prayer request list, especially poor people who are rarely well enough to attend or donate to church activities.

If anyone then asks them whether they support people in their need, they will point at the popular ones they 'encouraged' and get outraged if you mention the sheep that were shoved aside. (In fact, its a common social tactic for a newcomer to join a church's inner circle by diligently looking up those the inner circle champions...and diligently ignoring the needs of those they ignore. This is how you can tell those with a heart to serve from those who just have a heart to join the inner circle...)

There's a church not far from our house whose lack of Christian love and inclination towards snap judgments is regularly on display on their sign. Lately its been "a little stumble comes before a great fall" on one side...and an invitation to join their 'loving VBS' on the other.*  Course they are the ones who frankly admitted when I first met them that their group was founded as a socially centralized way to manage their 'neighborhood enclave,' ** so maybe I shouldn't count them anyway.

*{Not long ago their sign said that those facing trials should accept the discipline and repent! Good advice might want to get that beam in your eye looked at, folks...}

**(think civil rights issues)

This attitude also leads to other very inappropriate people being given very high levels of respect in their organizations. Hey. you know that rich guy with the florid, swollen nose and all the 'temporary' girlfriends? Not sure how he got so rich but isn't it great he donated a van for our club outings??? What a great guy... Seems like he likes coming to our church. Maybe if we chat him up, see if he'll make a confession of faith, he might become deacon or officer and manage our building fund? He has great parties too, though he'd have to tone 'em down when the pastor comes over. har har har (DH & I have literally overheard comments like these in this county...twice... both times the 'great guy' was known to have criminal connections, and eventually served time in ways that strongly suggested how they had gotten so wealthy. They managed to save most of their wealth though, and it didn't seemed to hurt their popularity with these 'Christians' at all.)

Now...God does indeed judge people after a season when they won't listen, and the causes mentioned earlier are among the reasons why, but only HE knows for certain when someone faces reversals for just cause or 'just because.' We aren't supposed to be judging this for ourselves, as we are NOT God...and are rarely going to get it right anyhow.

There are an incredible amount of 'Jobs' at any given time, suffering to be purified even more than they were, as preparation for later - or simply sharing Christ's suffering due to the decay & sin of our fallen world.

So how are we supposed to respond when we hear about others troubles in the real world? How do we distinguish the slandered sheep from say, that deacon who got arrested for party-time activities? How do we be wise sheep, in choosing who to visit in our limited time and who should get the emergency resources, and not be judgmental?

The immediate answer is prayer...pray until you know who you are to help with what you have. Pray HARD because you really care not to squander what God gave you...and not because you are curious who deserved a 'whuppin'

It starts with your heart. God calls everyone to repentance. You need to face the fact that you (and I) are not better than anyone else. Hobos have as much a right to grace as we do, even when they are high as a kite, ugly as a baboon's backside, and foul-mouthed besides. God loves witches...and the near homonyms.. God loves the meanie at the office.  God loves even the most violent cannibal tribes there ever were. He loves them each one as much as he loves YOU

If you have accepted His gracious offer to be saved, He'd like you to show some gratitude by acting like the saved sinner you are. You deserve every bad thing that will ever happen to you and a lot of bad things that never will. That's true of everybody btw.


...but we are saved by Grace and Mercy.

Mercy -- which  rejoices over judgment by the cleansing atonement of Jesus Christ...

and we are expected to be merciful in our dealings with others. We are flatly told not to judge other people, and that includes telling our friends and family whether we think other people deserve the trials they face.

"Judge not Lest Ye Be Judged" is God's flat warning that if you don't quit this, there will be trials in your future that will definitely be a judgment on you!

Its not that you shouldn't be careful in how you act around someone who could be dangerous to you, nor that you shouldn't use wisdom on who you hang with, in fact we are told to seek others who live Godly lives to be near whenever possible, but you need to be cautious of regarding those different than your group as less deserving of God's approbation and blessing than your group. It may well be true, but that's not for you to say (or think).

Your blessings in friends, resources, or other talents are given to you to use responsibly, with love, to God's glory.. They are not proof you aren't as likely to sin as the next guy.

Neither your talents, popularity or sterling qualities are a guarantee you won't be severely tested with trials at some season in your life. God makes no promises like that. Whether you have 5 friends or 500 here on Earth, or only the angels, heaven-dwelling saints, and Mother Mary to pray for you, God can hear and bless you. In fact, He has not promised to prioritize based on numbers. It rather worries me when people think that using a prayer list will always blunt a difficult event. God can say 'No' to 10,000 as easily as He can say "Yes" to one faithful servant. Almighty God doesn't do peer pressure....

Do not turn your back on your brothers and sisters in need. If you were fine with their walk before they had problems, then remain gentle in any 'corrections' you feel tempted to give afterward. You cannot support them unaided in the way you and they are accustomed to live...your Christian friends will know this too, and be doubly grateful when you help as you can. Your more carnal friends may lean too hard on you, yes....until you learn the word "no"....but pray hard about what you can do, and stick with doing that, being mindful always of your witness. Do right whether they acknowledge it or not. Who knows whether your faithfulness as a friend in Christ may not (in time) prove to be the seed that truly saves their souls?

Be aware that many who think they have defeated this carnal -materialistic attitude in their lives, have only defeated its most obvious manifestations, and missed the echo effect in their Christian support group. There is a tendency to believe, for one, that the friends and family of a pastor may be a little more 'saved' and should have higher standing than lay believers, when even pastors have to check their own walk daily, to keep from sliding. You can go to Bible studies often...and not apply the teaching, or maybe not even get good teaching TO apply.

     As a result, its not uncommon to meet someone who has a 'leg up' in the church scene who figures they don't have to listen to a word from those 'below' them (or outside their sect), and think they are using proper discernment...when they are actually behaving/thinking exactly as described above. They aren't always trying to be ugly, but where Love goes out, Pride comes in, and Pride is an unrelenting, insidious, poisonous enemy, always looking for a hole in your protections so it can bite you again.

Now, I am not saying this thinking I am better than all that I've described. I've been burned enough that there's been many a time I've had to fight with the same temptation to judge the trials of those who have distressed me as 'just what they deserve.' God doesn't like that out of me either. I know it, so I try not to be that way. I don't know what is in everybody's heart (though I often think I can figure it out.) I am not called upon to judge, but to share the good news of God's Mercy. I have to pray for grace all the time too. I also have to remember that the merciful receive mercy, and the judgmental receive judgment.

Praise God, Christ sees the heart. God alone is the righteous judge, and Christ will execute that judgment.

Praise God that He is willing to soften our stony hearts and fix our backward 'logic,'  if we will only yield to his Wisdom and Grace.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This article adds a couple of thoughts to your post.

Two Things Jesus Never Says to the Suffering