I have just started Frank Viola’s (and now George Barna’s) book “Pagan Christianity?” I have few friends who have been jacked by the “church” after spending decades there, and this book is striking a chord with them. So I thought I should read it as I am becoming increasingly convinced by holding what passes for the American Church up to scripture, that… well… it ain’t.
I got through the introduction, but on the page before the preface, Viola has placed this question from Christ to the Pharisees:
“Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? “
I don’t think that is one that I have internalized before. But it is an idea that my husband and I had gotten close to in a letter to our former pastor about the corruption there. I thought I would share that passage here:
“Over and over during our dealing with Bel Air on this problem, we ran into the same ethos. The lie that one can disobey Jesus for the sake of the ministry of Jesus and still be in a relationship with Jesus.”
In both cases, those being confronted have used service to their religion/traditions/methods/process ostensibly as justification for their sin. But as soon as religion/traditions/methods/processes oppose, ignore and trample the word of God, they no longer serve or please God.
They become just another one of man’s worldly ambitions going after his worldly goals, no different than disobeying God for the sake of ones bank account or political career or popularity. Either a process or a ministry approach or a worship method obeys and serves God or it doesn’t. Once it doesn’t any more, it does not matter in what respect it doesn’t, it just matters that it doesn’t.
To disobey Christ to serve tradition, or to serve ministry goals, or to serve the homeless, or to serve your greed, or to serve career ambitions, or to serve your moment of anger, or to serve any end, no matter how lofty or how base you may consider it, is to still to disobey Christ. Why you are doing it is irrelevant.
Chris Rock confronts such a moral dilemma much more plainly:
“You know what they say, “There’s no reason to ever hit a woman.”… There’s a reason to hit everybody. You just don’t do it… there’s a reason to kick an old man down a flight of stairs. You just don’t do it.
It doesn’t matter if you think you have a good reason to sin… just don’t do it.
You cannot disobey Him and glorify Him at the same time. You cannot rebel against Him and be in a right relationship with Him.
And I think possibly the silliest thing that professing Christians do is to justify disobedience to Christ for the sake of the Gospel. “I have to win people to Christ, so I will disobey His direct commands in order to make the gospel more appealing, and thereby win converts”.
“But if we discipline the pastor whom so many come to hear speak on his personal sin, attendance will go down, donations will go down and we won’t be able to rent insert name of massive local venue for our Easter Service and won’t be able to make our city the Greatest City for Christ in America™!”
Because God needs our help to save people?
Because the Holy Spirit is insufficient to convict people of their spiritual bankruptcy and make them long for God’s forgiveness?
Bottom line, we want to do what we want to do to satisfy our desires and ambitions, so we do it. And when we use the traditions and methods that we have invented to supposedly honor God to justify doing what we want to in Christ’s direction, we merely prove our wicked nature, and defend ourselves against having to repent and give up our will to the will of God.
Sin’s circular reasoning.
We are a creative bunch of sinners, aren’t we.
Matthew 18 gives us the clearest direction on what to do when tradition or ministry goals or personal reputation or our job or our relationships or anything causes us to sin. If something has to give, it is not obedience to God, it is the thing that we sinned for.
If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.
If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.
A graphic word picture to be sure, but pretty clear that when the believer feels he has to sin in the service of his job, his only choice is to quit his job.
And it is an absolutely clear instruction for this in church leadership that if their ministry requires them, to disobey scripture, the “ministry” has to end.
Because it really was only a ministry to the one supposedly ‘ministering’ and not a ministry to God anyway.