the new elite

Behold, a new paradigm of devotion has come, and the faithful have made themselves ready!

Occasionally, I engage in “discussions”—through social media and other formats—with people who talk about the efficacy of “pulling out” of regular interaction with other Christians. You know who I mean: “those people” who don’t think or believe the way I do; the ones who really are halfhearted or who abuse authority or really only care about themselves or who are in it for the money or who don’t believe God is really love or who are selfish, egotistical monsters out to fleece the sheep.

In such interactions, I have been told that God has brought these individuals into a new revelation of transcendence, that Holy Spirit has made available his authority and glory and power to be experienced in the lives and hearts of the “few” who are truly seeking the face of Jesus and who want to experience all the fullness of God. They have come to understand that regular “church”—the institution and the cultural expression—is corrupted, and individual members (leaders, mainly) are corrupt. Therefore, it is up to a remnant to do what is right and worship in spirit and in truth, the way God originally intended. If most Christians want to stay in their fellowships, that is fine; but the truly enlightened are the vanguard of a new breed, and are not required to be part of the chaotic mess that constitutes most regular gatherings of believers.

On the surface this could possibly bear semblance of good and noble intent.

Except.

Except that throughout history, throughout the long and winding road that has been the spread of Christianity around the world, among every tribe and tongue and region and nation, there has always been a people of God, there have always been those whose hearts beat true with love and passion for Jesus. There has always been a people ADONAI has reserved for himself that have not, who will not “bow the knee to Baal.” Maybe some self-appointed Elijahs could take a bit more  time to hear God’s voice and gain clearer insight into his perspective.

Have leaders misused power? Yes. Does systemic wickedness seem to thrive in hierarchy? Yes. We have all experienced unconscionable ugliness and anger masquerading as righteous indignation; seen selfish and shameless self-promotion camouflaging itself as full-throttled faith in God’s call; watched hucksters fleecing the trusting flock of God to weave their own coat of many colors; shuddered to discover cold-hearted cynics who live lives of preening hypocrisy to gain approval of others (and maybe get their money or have sex with them).  

But what about the innumerable company of humble leaders who pour their lives out to nurture those whom God has placed before them to love and serve? What about the millions of faithful, trusting believers who look daily up to their Father in gratitude and trust—and sometimes with gratitude tinged with despair—who hope against hope and who try to believe that all things work together for good? What about the lonely ones who press in to trust, the faithful ones who pray and fast, the kind ones who do good to everyone around them as much as they are able, the gentle ones who touch and love outcasts, the humble ones who serve not looking for perks or commendation?

And how about this: Jesus loves his bride; he is creating a people who intertwine their lives in breathtaking beauty and staggering love for their bridegroom and for each other. He is forming a people who become a bride conforming so completely to his image that she understands his very heartbeat, his every thought, his intense desire for the flourishing of creation.

God created because he loves. God created because he is creative, and because his love is so immense, so incalculably beautiful, he wants to share and to expand that love to encompass everything that exists.

Why does Jesus want an eternal companion to share in his glory for eternity? This is a mystery that none of us completely comprehends. But we bow in worship and adoration that such a breathtaking destiny and purpose exists. We humble ourselves before his mighty hand and his awesome and glorious wisdom.

To take a posture that claims we don’t have to be part of the process, that hides from the messy and humbling experience of allowing others into our lives and refuses to take part in corporate manifestation of the kingdom, is to dishonor and disobey the very One we have sworn to worship and serve.

Harshly condemning the people of God is anti-Christ. To speak against his bride is to speak against Jesus.

Lord, have mercy on us.

red noses and revival

I don’t often read anything on HuffPost (unless for some reason I’m in the mood to be agitated). However, today the site had an article that caught my interest.

Apparently, a batch of newly-minted adults have been discovering some ugly truths underlying the holiday favorite “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

One of their main findings? Santa is really a jerk.

Many of us who are older noticed this quite some time ago. Think back on the cartoon. Santa, along with the rest of his deer crew, mocks Rudolph for his non-conformity; just minutes after the poor little guy is born, Santa tells him he had better get it together if he wants to be part of the “sleigh-pulling” band. Later, during reindeer games, he tells Donner–Rudolph’s dad–that he ought to be ashamed and is saddened that Rudolph had shown such promise; but alas! If only he didn’t have that red nose! Because, of course, being different disqualifies you.

And late in the show, when Donner is away looking for his lost son, Santa laments that he is worried about the deer being lost out in the big blizzard. Why is he so concerned? Is it because Donner could be in danger, freezing to death in the wilderness? No; Santa’s frantic because Christmas is only two days away, and he needs Donner to work Christmas Eve!

The final take-away is that everyone was prejudiced and wrong. Rudolph comes in handy because–lo and behold–his unusual nose is actually useful sometimes! He even talks Santa into visiting the Isle of Misfit Toys. (Although, people also noticed that during the credits, one of the elves throws the misfit bird–who can’t fly–out of the sleigh without an umbrella parachute. Kind of like the “turkey drop” in the famous WKRP episode. Happy landings, Tweey!)

Now, I’m not trying to be deliberately sarcastic or cruel. I really do have fond memories of those stop-motion puppets and their adventure. I loved the show as a small boy, and I still like to watch it every year. But while reading the HuffPost article, I started thinking that a lot of people perceive God as being just like that Santa: distracted with His own concerns and generally frustrated with our weaknesses. Also, a lot of churches function like the reindeer gang. If you are too weird, you really can’t be a part of our group; unless it turns out you have something we can use.

This was never the Lord’s intent. He is gracious and merciful and patient with our weakness and foolishness, and He gently, but firmly, draws us into His presence so we can be changed by His mercy and purity. As the church, we should likewise be gracious, bearing each other’s burdens and “…stir(ring) up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).

The Holy Spirit is continually drawing people to Jesus. And in this season, when He is breathing His fresh wind into the body of Christ worldwide, we can and should expect the Lord of the harvest to add daily to His church. But remember, a lot of those people will not look or act or think like us. People who don’t know Jesus act like people who don’t know Jesus. This is to be expected.

Yes, God is holy, and He gives grace to His people to be holy. But let us remember that there is huge diversity in His body, and we may even find some “Rudolphs” among us. We will need them for our foggy days ahead.

Santa and Rudolph