Friday, January 20, 2012

Fitting into the Kingdom of God

I woke up this morning thinking about how happy I am in my current denominational affiliation.  Over the years we have been led through many churches:  denominational, non-denominational, interdenominational, and even a pseudo Christian cult.  There were many good experiences in them all; even the cultish group taught us about levels of commitment that are possible (although of course it is best if the commitment comes from the heart rather than from leadership enforcers).  We learned that even in the best of churches a type of cultish mentality can exist, in the group as a whole or with particular individuals, that says "we are just a little more Christian than the other denominations".  We learned about an "us vs them" mentality that can exist between church goers and those who do not yet know Jesus.  

On the positive side we learned about community, giving and receiving, loving people it would be difficult to love without Jesus helping us, being those very people that are difficult to love without Jesus helping those around us, joyful sacrifice, and how to do pot luck lunches!  Good times and bad times, but all leading us to our current denomination.  

What I love about our present affiliation is its inclusive nature.  All are welcome.  All are welcome as they are, and God is given a lot of latitude, sans our well meaning interference, to create the changes we all need to make in our lives and attitudes and in our relationship with God.  There is a good awareness of community needs and what  our church members can offer....and a high level of committment to social justice issues. Meeting around the Eucharist as a church family each week draws us together whether or not there is a high level of public sharing about our spiritual lives.  Yes our denomination is undergoing a huge upheaval right now and we don't know what the eventual outcome will be, but for now these are some of the things I love. 

Another thing I am enjoying a lot is that for the most part our people tend to mind their own business.  I have been part of this denomination for about 17 years now and while there are always exceptions to the rule, most of the people I have met are strong in the concept of allowing people to live their own lives without constantly lurking in the background, performing a sort of "righteous spying" to ensure that others maintain the level of holiness demanded by the particular lurker who is just waiting to pounce on a suspected offender....or at least waiting to spread all manner of gossip or downright slander about the supposed offender's activities to anyone who will  listen  (and not always under the thin but quasi-acceptable guise of the local church prayer chain either).  There are very few issues in my denomination when it comes to others' personal choices.  You can agree or disagree in your own mind with what you see or think you see other church people doing, but you can pray for them in silence, help them quietly and out of the public eye if they truly need help, and the level of gossip is pretty minimal.  Across the socio-economic classes that are part of our church we have just seen far less "buttinskyism".  Yes, there are relational problems as there are in any group of people and familiarity can still breed contempt, but we see so many people being very careful not to jump to conclusions about their place and responsibility in the lives of others.  These people do not live in constant fear of being "tainted" by those with different personal habits or making different choices than they themselves would.  In these areas of life and spiritual walk, God is given a lot of credit for being able to change his own people as he deems necessary.

The other thing I truly enjoy is that there is not much pressure to be seeking God's will for every detail of life in a manner that requires such moment by moment vigilance as to nearly bring on a nervous breakdown in case somehow his divine will is missed.   It is nice to be able to relax, even at the most confusing of life's crossroads, and expect that God is big enough to lead and guide along life's path without a ton of stress that somehow I may have missed it.  I am learning that he is big enough to make corrections when I do miss the answers he is trying to make plain to me, and that his will is apparently more concerned with my character development than my outward appearances.  His will always concerns whether or not I am growing in the fruits of the Holy Spirit regardless of my outward circumstances.  Who I marry, where I work, what town I live in.....yes he works in all these areas of my life and guides me as faithfully as my hard human heart will allow, but in all those things I believe his perfect will is actually that I learn to be Christ-like no matter how those outward circumstances evolve.  I am getting good lessons in my current denomination about the overarching greatness of God the Father no matter the circumstance of life, the sacrifice of Jesus the Son that gives me trust that a triune God loves me and has my best interests at heart, and a Holy Spirit that is sent to lead my heart in the direction it needs to go to please the Lord.  As followers of Jesus his will is to help us restore harmony between a holy God and a fallen world.  I don't need to keep my eyes on the follies of others except to help them up when they fall, and I don't need to worry about the outcome of my own life's circumstances as much as the outcome of my heart's attitudes; how changes in my heart and mind show Jesus to the rest of the world .  I don't need to worry as much about the absolute correctness of my church doctrines as I do about allowing God to be the Lord of my life and trusting him to lead me into all that is necessary to fulfill my place as a beacon of Jesus' light in his kingdom. It is wonderful to have this kind of peace.   


chris e. said...

Tell it sister!!! This should be required reading for...pretty well everyone. Nothing like putting in a few years in a Stepford Saints style church to make you appreciate the freedom we really do have in Christ.

Susan said...

Susan said...

No doubt at some point in the future, people being people no matter where or how they worship, my being so enamoured of my present denomination will undergo some change. But it has been wonderful to experience the best of the people thus far.