Diversity In Church is Like Pumpkin Spice: Over. Rated.

I have heard much about the “need for diversity in church.”

I am not sure where the Bible supports the concept of making diversity THE key of church health. Yet I am constantly told that the strength of a group of people is in our diversity. We need other contrary opinions to help us grow.

To an extent I get it. I am certainly not anti-diversity. I do think that making diversity the End All, the Main Point of a church, is a recipe for disaster.

What I see in the Bible is that all diversity is eliminated in Christ–neither male nor female, Jew or Gentile, bond or free, nor racial distinctions exist in the unity of Christ. That being the case, the Church is ultimately concerned with Christ, not how many men or women or Jews or Gentiles, etc. the church has in it.

The idea that we need divergent opinions in order to grow has truth in it. If you don’t know something and you meet someone who does, you will hear a different opinion. Learning only happens by having your opinion confronted with truth.

But, truth is the key. Just having a Devil’s Advocate spew contrariness will not lead to learning, unity, nor growth. In fact, it may destroy a group. Certainly we need well-informed opinions, many of which can take opposing sides in a doctrinal discussion, but to have divergence for the sake of divergence accomplishes nothing.

I’ve met people who have taken it upon themselves to always be different. To poke people in the eye because it’s good for all those other people to be confronted with a differing opinion.

Paul said when he was with those under the law, he became as one under the law. When he was with those not under the law, he was as one not under law. Paul did not say, “When I’m with those under the law, I think it’s best to give them a divergent opinion of things from one not under the law.”

Grace makes you aware of where other people are coming from and helps you adjust so as not to cause anyone to stumble. Arrogance wants to be different to get attention.

Although it may be hard to believe, sometimes divergent people should just shut up.

No really, they should.

For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.

There are certain divergent opinions that should not be given equal time, no matter how politically incorrect that sounds to our sensitive ears.

Furthermore, people who need to poke others in the eye with their leading questions should also be quiet. “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.

Diversity can be an outcome of the Gospel rightly received, but it should not be the goal. The Gospel is, and always should be, the goal. Diversity will take care of itself.

Furthermore, we also must make sure we know what diversity is. Some make diversity all about skin color, making some sort of Gospely race quotas the test of “true Christianity.”

Others think diversity has more to do with backgrounds of people either economically (rich, poor, middle class); religiously (ex-Catholics, ex-Lutherans, ex-cult members, etc); or age (babies, kids, teens, college age, elderly, etc.).

In the end, none of this really matters, nor should any of these things be used as criteria for attracting people to a church. In Christ, all these distinctions are eliminated. They are not the essential point. We love our neighbor, regardless of whether they are diverse enough to get our love.

Diversity is fine and makes for interesting potlucks, but it’s not the most crucial thing for a church to have. The most crucial thing for a church to have is the Holy Spirit, the Gospel, the fellowship of our common faith, and a common goal of looking to Christ.

The Church doesn’t need your holier than thou divergence. We really don’t. Make a Facebook page about it and revel in your oddness, but tone it down in the Church. The Church is about Christ, not your diversity.

Leaving a Church Because of All The Sinners In It

I have had people leave my church because, and I quote, “Everyone in your church is so good. They are all better than me, and I feel like I don’t fit in.”

I have also had people leave my church because, and I quote, “There are a lot of bad people in your church. If the Holy Spirit were truly at work here, the people would be better.”

So, which is it?

It’s both, no doubt. And each statement reveals more about the one making the judgment than those they judge.

Your opinion of people in a church depends on two things:

  1. Your awareness of your sin
  2. Your awareness of other people’s sin

If you are blissfully unaware of your own sin, yet all-consumingly aware of other people’s sin, you will no doubt find the church filled with horrible, hypocritical, not worth being around, “Christians” with the quote marks.

If you are guilt-riddenly aware of your own sin, so bogged down in it, you won’t see other people’s sin, because you won’t see other people at all, you will only see you. You will then feel worthless, like everyone else is better. You won’t feel like you fit in because your own self-absorption keeps you from fitting in.

The best thing is to have a healthy view of your own sin and a healthy view of other people’s sin. This looks like this:

A healthy awareness of your own sin means you check yourself. You confess your sin to God, agreeing with Him about what it is, why it’s wrong, and are determined to fight it with the grace, mercy, and power that is offered to you through the Gospel.

A healthy awareness of other people’s sin means you are not judgmental nor naive. You know people sin. You know everyone battles the flesh, the world, and the Devil just like you do, and sometimes fail. You know that believers are accepted in Christ and have received forgiveness, therefore, you are moved to be merciful and forgiving of others as well.

If everyone in a church had a healthy view of sin; grace, mercy, forgiveness, patience, and unity would reign supreme. It is only when sin gets blown out of proportion that a church will struggle to stay together.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. This request of the Lord’s Prayer shows a healthy view of our sin as individuals and corporately. We know our sin, and we are willing to forgive others of their sin.

It’s a beautiful thing, and the only way a group of people will make any advance in the things of Christ.

We’re all in this together.

The Truth Will Set You Free. Free From What?

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This is a quote from the Bible, from Jesus in fact, that I hear quite often. Here are a few examples:

Truth – reality – is all that there is. Everything real is what it is, and anything else is pretense; half-truths as well as direct lies spun to deceive others do not exist. The meaning of the truth will set you free is that only reality and what’s factual actually exist. Lies, falsehood, cheating, and deception are all not real.

Therefore, the writer says TRUTH = REALITY. You are set free from lies. Therefore, the quest of man is to find what is real. No doubt the scientific method will come in handy as we test our hypothesis through experiment.

So discover the meaning of truth, learn to overcome your self sabotage, then the truth can work its magic – and set you free.

Truth here means the real you. Not the pretend you in your head, or the you your parents or society defined, but the REAL you. You are then free to be YOU! This, of course, assumes that the real you is a you actually worth you being. There is a reason why fantasy land is so attractive.

Only by embracing the truth of our past histories can any of us hope to be free of pain in the present.

This was said by a psychoanalyst, a psycho for short, about becoming fully you. Being free of pain is her endgame. Truth apparently does not hurt anymore.

OK, so weirdos from the world say weird things about the truth setting you free. What about Christians? Surely Christians know what Jesus was talking about.

Are you in bondage right now? Are you trapped in deception and weighed down by “rules and regulations?” Do you want to be free? Then look to Jesus. Pick up His Word and read it. Learn His truth, and it will set you free!

Truth is God’s Word, which is a fine place to start. Nice to be on common ground. However, they blow it by then saying FREE means being free of legalism. Not that I’m defending legalism, but no, this is not what Jesus is talking about.

If the Bible isn’t infallible, inerrant, and flawless, you’re in a heap of trouble. The Bible tells you how you can be saved. It tells you that your life isn’t an accident. The Bible tells you how to be forgiven. It tells you how God can use you for good in the world.

Again, we’re on common ground of having the Bible be truth. Rick Warren, Purpose Driven guy, said this quote. His freedom is forgiveness (which is closer) and, of course, God using you to do your purpose in the world. Although I can’t say any of this is necessarily wrong, it still misses the force of the words of Jesus.

That truth liberates us from superstition and from customs that displease God and harm us. The following shows how Bible truth has liberated people in various lands from some of the burdensome customs associated with Christmas.

Hey, I’m not making this up. The truth is the Bible, which is nice, but freedom is freedom from Christmas customs. Oh boy. As much as I’d like to be free of Christmas, no, Jesus was not talking about Christmas customs.

Truth gives freedom. Ultimate freedom is found in God’s Word, the Holy Bible. Scriptures speak and tell the truth destroying lies and deception.

Again, we’re agreed on where the truth comes from, but the freedom falls short of Christ’s freedom.

I’ll stop there. For the world, truth means what you experience to be real, and knowing the “real” sets you free from false-you, so you can be real-you, which is supposed freedom.

For most Christian types, truth is God’s word, but the freedom is usually along the lines of “freeing you from being wrong and being in disagreement with me,” or some amorphous deliverance from lies.

Now, the Grand Finale, let’s see what Jesus meant when He said the truth would set you free.

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

The Truth is the word of Jesus Christ. The Freedom is FREEDOM FROM SIN.

When you believe the words of Christ, you are no longer a slave of sin. You defeat sin. You stop sinning habitually. The power is broken.

The way to determine how well you know truth, is to determine how well you are beating sin.

Not overcoming sin? Then you should get to know more Truth.

Jesus is the one who said these words. I think we should stick with His point.

4 Point Book Review of Tolstoy’s “The Kingdom of God Is Within You”

Tolstoy wrote this book in 1894 in Russia. This was not a pleasant time to be in Russia. Tolstoy did not like what was going on, and how he did not get thrown in jail for vocalizing his displeasure is beyond me. My wife, who knows such things, tells me it’s because he was already such a celebrity there. The book was banned in Russia and was originally published in Germany.

This book is about Christian Pacifism. Tolstoy believes Christians should all be non-violent and expresses this point in rather heated language, ironically enough! Although he quotes the Sermon on the Mount a lot, he seems to have missed the bit about sin in thought, not just action.

Here are four points from this book, which I will begin with a verse he quotes to make his point:

  1. “The Kingdom of God is within you”
    This is Tolstoy’s main point: we belong to God’s Kingdom, we are that Kingdom, therefore, we don’t need man’s kingdoms. Tolstoy is pretty much an anarchist. He says Christians should resist mandatory military service, taking oaths, voting, and even paying taxes. He sees no point for human governments, as they are merely self-feeding power structures that oppress the masses. I guess I can’t disagree to a certain extent, but God did establish authority on earth that we are to honor and pay taxes to, but he skips those verses. It appears as though he thinks Christians, by obeying God, can reform society and create the actual Kingdom of God. Although a popular view of his time, two massive World Wars ended this doctrine quite soundly.
  2. “Resist not the evil.”
    This phrase is from Luke 17:21. Tolstoy says this verse is the foundation of all Christian pacifists. He gives a brief history of Christian Pacifism, which was interesting, and how all these movements based their beliefs on this verse. I do think this verse gets short-shrift in Christian thinking today. We too quickly want to bomb people and shoot them. I imagine “resist not the evil” actually meant “resist not the evil.” Although Tolstoy might go too far in his application, this verse ought to impact our doctrine to some extent.
  3. “An eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.”
    Although this was a law for the Old Covenant, Tolstoy argues that Jesus Christ’s commandment to love your enemy replaces this old law. Therefore, capital punishment and all forms of self-defense are out the window. We are to love, regardless of what someone does to us. We are to do unto others as we would have done unto us. Love fulfills the law. He also repeats “Thou shalt not kill” and thus, there should be no war and no armies. All soldierly killing is against God’s law. Any attempt to sidestep and defend military killing is more evidence of the church’s collusion with temporal powers.
  4. “Worshipers in spirit and in truth”
    Not only is Tolstoy against political authority, he is also against clerical authority. He views the church as being in cahoots with the government–just another power and money hungry institution dumbing down people to do their will rather than God’s. I have sympathy with his point, but once again, he overstates the case and misses many verses that weigh-in on this subject. He has no use for the church, not just the Russian church, which was entwined with the Russian political authority, but all church, no exceptions.

In the end, Tolstoy is one angry man. He does have some legitimate grounds for his anger, but I think he devised an angry philosophy, found six verses that backed it up, and wrote a book. Some of this book reads like a diatribe, which a modern-day editor would have limited extensively.

Tolstoy lived in a rough time and I empathize with him. I do think he’s more right than he is wrong, and I do think he was trying to help, but he’s just too sloppy with his reasoning, too idealistic in his hopes, and too narrow in his usage of Scripture. The deeper irony of the book is that he, as a rich man of influence, can get away with standing up to the government! If he were a peasant, his book never would have been written, let alone published, nor would he have lived! As much as I appreciate his stance against evil, I don’t think it’s rooted in reality, nor in Scripture.

This is the kind of book I’d recommend, except that I fear people would think I totally agree! I don’t! But he does raise valid points we don’t consider enough in our endeavors to follow Christ. For that, I thank him for making me think about it.