Monday, December 19, 2016

The Road Less Traveled

There is a wide range of information you can find at your local church. Some churches are really good at "working the crowd", so to speak. They know how to whip up the good feelings. Not much actual biblical truth going on, but people sure feel good about that church. Others offer increasingly more. There are the topical preachers that give some biblical insight on everyday topics and the expository preachers that preach through biblical texts and then there are Bible preachers that really dig in deep. A range of stuff.

It seems, however, that no matter how wide that range seems to be, there are still some roads less traveled, so to speak. Why do you suppose it is that in even good churches with good preachers and teachers some of these things don't seem to be very hot topics?

Take, for instance, marriage. We get a smattering of marriage messages. You might even find a "young marrieds" group. But the predominance of dysfunctional marriages suggests that we're not getting that message out. I mean, there are separations and divorces among believers. There is a host of misinformation and lies offered in churches. Some husbands are overbearing, even abusing authoritarians that use (read "misuse") the Bible to beat their wives over the head with "submit" and more, all the while ignoring "love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her." Perhaps more husbands are the opposite, passive, mealy-mouthed, quiet, "go along to get along" types who fail to take the responsibilities God gave them for wife and kids. In my experience, the gap between these two is large in principle and operation, but very sparsely populated by actual husbands. I can find lots of examples on both ends, but very few genuinely godly, biblical husbands.

How about wives? They are taught by some to "submit under every circumstance" and told that if there are marriage problems they are all their fault. They didn't submit enough. Do what he wants! Or they are taught some version of "look out for #1" where the #1 in view is themselves, their dreams, their feelings, their personal desires. Very few women, either pre-marriage or in marriage, are actually taught about biblical marriage. It seems like most of what's being offered in churches is lies from some chauvinistic, sexist patriarchy (as opposed to actual, biblical patriarchy), the world's warm, embracing "don't let anyone get in the way of your dream" ... even if it means violating biblical commands, or a vapid silence punctuated from time to time with vague suggestions about womanhood and wifery. (I made that last word up; you know what I'm talking about.)

What about parenting? This is so absent from most churches these days. Why would I say that? Because most churches have children in them and most of those children would disqualify their parents from being elders (1 Tim 3:4; Titus 1:6). I know of churches where a mother or a father is serving in roles like "Head of Children's Ministries" with kids who are out of control in the children's ministry. There is no instruction about raising kids, teaching kids, responsibility for kids, loving kids. It's like these churches take a "hands off" approach to teaching biblical parenting. Too controversial, perhaps? Won't be appreciated or well received? Undoubtedly.

In fact, it seems like many of these "roads less traveled" are in that category. They won't be well received or appreciated. Men don't want to be held accountable to either surrender self and love their wives or to step up to their God-given responsibilities to love and lead their wives and children. Women do not want to hear "submit to your husbands as to the Lord" or anything approaching it. "Me? Submit to him? He doesn't know enough to come in out of the rain!" Parents really don't want to hear that they are held responsible by God to teach and train their children in a world where "Be you kids' best friend" is the rule of the day. It's true, in fact, of the others of these types of issues. We don't really want to hear teaching and preaching on giving, sexual sin, submission to government, or even discipleship. We seem to largely ignore areas like qualifications of elders/bishops/overseers or deacons, prohibitions of women teaching in authority over men, and other "unfriendly" biblical positions. Lots of roads down which we don't want to go and too many churches oblige.

On the other hand, these seem to be both entirely relevant and fairly central in Scripture. And this is problematic. If the command is to "teach them to obey all that I have commanded" (Matt 28:20) and we demur on key points and important issues of the day, should we, as churches and Christians, consider ourselves as being obedient? I don't see how we can. Is it because we have not been taught to obey all that He commands? Possibly. But if we intend to reasonably claim to love Jesus, we will need to keep in mind Jesus's words: "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (John 14:15) Hopefully that doesn't fall under the "road less traveled" category, too.

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