Monday, September 21, 2015

Matthew 18: Principles and Not Procedures

An old blog post I remember (after long forgetting) has just resurfaced. Kevin Johnson at the old - and no longer available - Reformed Catholicism posted about understanding the meaning of Matthew 18. His contention is that most people are not aware that Matt 18 has a specific context - church leaders dealing with each other. And, that many people are taught, unfortunately, that Matt 18 is a procedure to follow for laymen in dealing with sinning brothers, even when abused people try to confront their abusive religious leaders.

But, as Johnson points out, we are a people that live by wisdom and principles, and not detailed formulas. Neither Jesus nor Paul followed this pattern when rebuking the religious leaders of their day. We don't have to, either. It is odd that the Matthew 18 Nazis of today expect even abuse victims to follow Matt 18, especially in light of the fact that one of the possible outcomes Jesus assumes in telling this to his disciples is repentance. Something that well-oiled religious systems and their rigid leaders show very rarely.

Read Johnson's old post, preserved and re-posted by the Under Much Grace blog.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Ezekiel 34 (Part 1)

Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, 'Thus says the LORD God, "Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock. Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them. And they were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered. My flock wandered through all the mountains and on every high hill, and My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth; and there was no one to search or seek for them." ' " Ezekiel 34:1-6 (NASB)

The first thing I see, besides the woe pronounced, is that the LORD criticizes shepherds for feeding themselves instead of feeding the flock. I admit I'm a bit puzzled by this, as he says just after this that the shepherds eat the fat, and slaughter the fat sheep. How did these sheep get fat if the shepherds were not feeding the flock? Maybe the were feeding a select few in order to slaughter them? Maybe they were getting fat simply by being where they were in the field? I don't know. I will give some more thought to this as this series develops, and skip to the next group of issues for now.

Ezekiel then brings an accusation against the shepherds based on the lack of fulfilling their responsibilities. They were supposed to, as shepherds, strengthen the sickly. They were supposed to heal the diseased. They were supposed to bind the broken. They were supposed to bring back the scattered. They were supposed to seek for the lost. But they did none of these things. Then, an accusation of doing something they weren't supposed to do...dominate the flock with force and severity.

I believe that these failures of shepherds today are as true as they were in Ezekiel's day. Failure of shepherds to know their duties is widespread. I have experienced these failures personally at the hands of a number of shepherds over my 20+ years as a Christian and have read countless testimonies of others. Reading this passage and looking back at the churches I attended, I would barely know from the teaching I received that these are responsibilities of shepherds. But here, God lists them so that there is no question as to responsibility.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Voice of One Crying Out in a Closed Communion

Should communion (i.e. Lord's Supper) be an open or a closed thing? Arthur Sido at The Voice of One Crying Out in Suburbia does some reasoning with the bible in mind in his post, The Communion Default. I agree that it should be open to all Christians because it is, after all, the Lord's table, and not ours. And as one who has been humiliated by closed communions, I have experienced the damage that a closed communion can cause. Give it a read.