A few weeks ago I wrote about the role faith plays in allowing God to perform miracles in our lives and lamented with Jesus his inability to perform many miracles in Nazareth.[ https://www.salvationarmyconcordca.org/bitsnpieces/?id=fear-faith-fun ] It seems that because Jesus grew up in Nazareth, and the people there knew the family they had already made up their minds about what he should or should not be able to do. They wanted Jesus to be what they thought he should be.
One of my favorite translations (more correctly, paraphrases) of Paul’s letter to the Roman Church is that of J.B. Phillips:
“With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.” Romans 12:1-2 J.B. Phillips New Testament
Paul is warning of the danger of missing out on the blessings of God’s planning for us by allowing the world to “squeeze us into its own mould”.
Just as in Nazareth, when we try to confine Jesus to a box of our own making we find that we are stuck on the inside of our box and Jesus can’t do anything for us.
I think those of us in The Salvation Army are well aware that one of the reasons our movement was raised up by God was because the “established” churches of William Booth’s time were squeezed into a straightjacket of respectability. The people Booth wanted to bring into fellowship were not welcome because they did not “fit in” with conventional thinking of who was fit to be seen in a place of worship. It is fascinating to see that many of the songs we used to sing on that subject — like “O the drunkard may come…”; and “Can a poor sinner come to Jesus? Yes he can!” — seem to have faded into obscurity and been replaced by more “contemporary” expressions of praise and worship. We are running the risk of being “squeezed” into respectability!
While there is nothing wrong, and much joy, in enjoying the blessings, both spiritual and material, of holy living, we err when we decide who should be eligible for such blessings. It is an easy trap to fall into and often falls into the category of “tradition”. [I often define “tradition” as something we do because we’ve always done it that way, even though we don’t know why!]
The world has begun to use this against us by exposing our deficiencies of diversity, equity, inclusion [DEI] and opportunity. Inevitably we find that when we draw lines in the sand, Jesus is standing on the other side of the line! Having introduced Rev Phillips’ paraphrase, look at these words of Jesus:
“I myself am the bread of life. The man who comes to me will never be hungry and the man who believes in me will never again be thirsty. Yet I have told you that you have seen me and do not believe. Everything that my Father gives me will come to me and I will never refuse anyone who comes to me. For I have come down from Heaven, not to do what I want, but to do the will of him who sent me. The will of him who sent me is that I should not lose anything of what he has given me, but should raise it up when the last day comes. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and trusts in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up when the last day comes.” John 6:36-40 J.B. Phillips New Testament
I just caught myself humming the old song: “Whosoever will may come”!
However, in realigning our expectations of who should be included in our fellowship, we must be careful not to be squeezed into the mould of the world’s agenda. Again, the words of Jesus:
“Here I am sending you out like sheep with wolves all round you; so be as wise as serpents and yet as harmless as doves. But be on your guard against men. For they will take you to the court and flog you in their synagogues. You will be brought into the presence of governors and kings because of me—to give your witness to them and to the heathen.” Matthew 10:16-18 J.B. Phillips New Testament
The world wants to infiltrate the Body of Christ by getting us to accept its agents as part of our fellowship.
While we must always err on the side of grace and compassion, we must not turn a blind eye to agendas which will seek to weaken our bonding with Christ. It seems there is a new religion afoot which goes by the name “Tolerance”. We must always remember that the purpose of inviting (new) sinners into our fellowship is so that they will be changed and become “saints” and “new creations” in Christ. We must explain, encourage and model this change process as we seek to become more like Jesus.
To abandon holy living and tolerate (far less, encourage) their sin so that they will feel more “welcome” or “included” does nothing for their salvation and endangers ours!
The gospel is guaranteed to cause offense to lifestyles and beliefs which the secular world would endorse. If we are not encountering offense and resistance we must not be presenting the gospel authentically. To believe that we must avoid offense is stinkin’ thinkin’, and we must get back to the commands of Jesus and carry out his mission and avoid being squeezed into a worldly shape!
As a friend and I agreed recently, we must “conform our thinking to scripture, not conform scripture to our thinking”!
Rescue the perishing!
Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black