An important and interesting reaction from Diana Butler Bass.
An important and interesting reaction from Diana Butler Bass.
1 Timothy 4
1 Timothy 4:10
10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, especially of those who believe.
As the church we are the heirs of God’s promise to Abraham, that through his family the world would be blessed .
Genesis 12:3 (ESVUK)
3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
This was the purpose of the faith of Israel and the foundation of all the other promises. We inherit this promise to show God’s glory. In Christ, the source of all blessing, we are made perfect in our lives; in our childlikeness and in our wealth, because by him our hearts are made right. We are part of Abraham’s family of blessing. Through persecution and suffering in our bodies and through our compassion we are a light to the world. As the church we bless the world by being the bearers of truth, in word and in what we do. We are lovers of peace and those who do good works. We are made perfect in Christ to bear witness to him who reveals the Father. In him we are called to a life together, part of Abraham’s family.
There will be those who form the structure and keep the traditions of the family. There will be those who oversee, who serve and those who teach and preach. There will be those called out to minister. But Jesus teaches that true worship isn’t confined to a place, a mountain, a certain city, a temple but amongst those who worship in spirit and truth. Jesus identifies himself not a system as the way, the truth and the life and it is in his person that we know the Father.
As the church, those elected by God to be a blessing in Christ, we need to be aware that if we locate Jesus in a place or amongst a particular gathering we run the risk of placing him on the periphery of our lives. If we locate him in a building or system he is no longer in the world he came to bless. Jesus teaches us to be as he is, in the world but not of the world. The church as the body of Christ is the blessing of Christ in the world. We are called to be in the world but not of the world.
The church, the elect chosen in Christ, is to be the light to the world. We are found in the dark places of the world, not separate from them. In our buildings and structures we can become separated from our calling. We are gathered in truth to do good works prepared for us. Our buildings are to serve the community and if they are in the wrong place we should leave them or find a purpose for them that serves the community around them.
If we see the church as our leaders and our holy places, we are actually a beacon of hopelessness, separate and useless. Our hierarchies and venues carry the message and should serve the truth and good works, teaching the good news of salvation in Christ. We as his people are to redeem the time and have a ready answer to share the source of our hope so that it is clear we are in the world but not of the world, drawn into its futility. The Spirit will reveal what this looks like, but how often we fall into futility and allow our system of being to give us license to be of the world. Do we embrace the system in our backbiting and hunger for influence, where leaders and members demand honours like the rulers and leaders of the world, sitting in honoured places with special privileges? The church of our own making is an idol, our doctrines are idols and our gatherings are idols if we think that through them we know God.
The true church is people working towards peace with one another and working for peace with their neighbours, blessing those around in Christ. It looks like people standing for truth that in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is reconciliation. It will be amongst those who honour people called out to serve, to lead, to preach, teach, evangelise and who gather and care for people. This will not be confined to a time and a place or a person and always, always point away from itself to the Father so it is truly called the church of God.
So to the text 1 Timothy 4:10. It teaches us that we as believers are assured of salvation and Jesus is the saviour of all people. Our reading of Matthew shows us that Christ is sovereign in salvation not us. We do not get to choose through our doctrines or traditions who is saved or not saved; salvation is by faith. Our place is to pray that all may be reconciled to God in Christ without distinction and to serve all- to teach and admonish, provide for, pastor and serve even if there is no love returned and even more so when people appear to be enemies. Jesus shows the way on the cross, asking that even those who killed him would be forgiven; where is our faith here?
In our meeting and discussing we learned that perfection is not an end point but a state of being in Christ realised through our lives, a matter of the heart and, quite powerfully, we were reminded of the image of the family:
When we welcome people into our families they are welcomed on the basis of a shared life. We are saying; you are part of the love that is amongst us and we will extend to you the same care as we extend to the whole family. When you come to our home or to our table, you come on the basis that you are family and as family you will come to know and respect our ways of being, our traditions and enjoy them with us. But first you are family.
We also shared that we are called to a life together, not meeting together, and us meeting cannot substitute for life. The church meeting is our sitting down together and should not be neglected, but we are calling people, with Christ, to a life together not to a meeting. We want those who join us to be joined to our life together not the home and traditions we live in. Coming into our home is because we are family and Jesus teaches to those whose security is their home:
Luke 9:57-58 (ESVUK)
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Footnotes: Or by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves
English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.