Friday, March 19, 2010

A Tactical Blunder

If, as a pastor of a little church, my goal had been for our church to maintain the status quo, for us not to be challenged, changed, or churned up, I would have to admit to making a serious tactical error: I decided to preach through Ephesians.

Ephesians has been very challenging for us as a church. In Ephesians Paul says that because of the work of Christ on the cross the church should pursue purity and unity. Let me say that a different way... the church should pursue purity AND unity. Or to rephrase, the church should pursue purity and UNITY. Hmm. As you can see I'm still trying to figure out how to get the stress just right. But the point is that the church should pursue unity! And purity! And they should pursue both together!

Many churches in my tradition are good at pursuing purity. Moral purity, doctrinal purity, even aesthetic purity. You name the purity, we seek it. And we tend to look ever so slightly down our noses at those who have not attained to our level of doctrinal purity. In some circles, unity is even viewed as the first step down the slippery slope towards liberalism (gasp!).

Some churches love to emphasize unity. As we're learning in Ephesians, this is a good, biblical, necessary emphasis. But in the worst cases (not all cases) unity is achieved by lowering the standards of what we are united around, and purity goes out the window.

These impulses almost seem contradictory. Certainly, most of us don't naturally tend towards seeking both at once. And yet, this is what Paul is challenging us as a church to do. To settle for nothing less than a robust, Christ-centered Unity of believers, and a humble, Christ-focused purity of life.

How will we achieve this? It won't come all at once, I don't believe we are going to wake up one morning and find that God has all of a sudden granted perfection to the church (but I won't argue if this does happen!). I believe it is going to have to come from a grass roots movement. Each individual person doing their part, seeking to live "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love." (Ephesians 4:2)

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