The Third Way

directionless © by _gee_

Recently I read a post by Scott Bennett about the extreme views we hold.  Here is an excerpt from his post:

I live and work in the real world, and the blogosphere is a great way for me to crawl inside the heads of people who can clearly articulate different world views than mine (which are also flawed). It helps me exercise grace and love when I actually meet people with those views. It helps me rehearse how I might dialogue with them in a spirit of love and gentleness. It also shows me where I need to change my views in view of Scripture—and I have.

But there’s one unfortunate observation I’ve made in reading so many of the perspectives out there:

People are pendulums.

We are trend-reversers. We are in-kinders. We are master over-correctors. We set our sights on the equal and opposite amplitude of whatever we despise, zooming right past the center of gravity.

Joy and I have talked a lot about this, both swingers in our own right. We both have a drive deep within us to grab that pendulum (whatever it is) with both hands and launch it in the opposite direction. Let’s combat authoritarianism with anarchy. Let’s combat legalism with lackadaisicalism. Let’s combat total refusal with total acceptance. Let’s combat ultra-this with ultra-that.

In all of this, we zoom past the middle. We don’t consider a third way.

What I want to do is propose the third way.  I am getting ready to study Nehemiah and that’s when the third way hit me.  Well at least in response to church.  You see before I started walking this grace journey, I used to have quite a few opinions on church, its people, and the way it should be run.  The funny thing was I didn’t do too much about it, other than complain to my husband in the privacy of my home.  It was literally a waste of time and energy, a poor witness to my husband, my eyes were never really focused on Him (even though I thought I was being all godly by pointing out the flaws and weaknesses of others), and it was sinful.

I was a good girl who in some measure thought I was good enough and others were not.  I cringe now, but even though I smiled to your face, internally I was at war with things that were not good enough.  I had a critical spirit.  I could not see past myself and my pain to see that you probably have your own pain and that together we struggle to get it right.

What is the third way?  The third way is being like Nehemiah or Daniel and taking on the sins of your people as your own and repenting of them.

“O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.  Nehemiah 1:5-7

Once he had repented, he began to do something about the problem.  Instead of talking he was moved to action.

This past week I made the mistake of repeating something which I thought was an innocent little story to a third-party who no longer attends my church.  He attends a better, more spiritual church, or so it would seem.  The response to me caught me off guard as he belittled the bride of Christ where I attend in only 4 words, “I have my opinion.”  In one second, I realized how easy it was to go down the path of a critical and harsh spirit.  At once I realized that I was a man of “unclean lips” like Isaiah, not only in the words I had spoken but also in the words I had not spoken.  In fact my words played the harlot.

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.  James 1:26

I had spent time listening to words when I should have turned a deaf ear and then repeated them when I should have kept silent.  One sin begat another in me and my sin begat another in this 3rd person.  He found it so easy to belittle my church, and I took the words in curious as to whether they were true in light of the work God’s been doing in me, making me fall passionately in love with the bride of Christ at my church.  I even found old negative thoughts coming back into my head. This time I questioned them instead of welcoming them.

Then, God.

He got a hold of my head and my heart.  And corrected me.

Grace has a mighty grip.  He reminded me of the third way.  He reminded me to repent on behalf of His people for so much more than just our opinions and things that simply do not matter, or will not matter when He’s finished His work.  Because He has a plan for this local church, not just the better more spiritual church down the street.

“Jesus Friend of sinners we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus friend of sinners the truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they’re tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I’m so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided

Oh Jesus friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus friend of sinners break our hearts for what breaks yours”  ~ Casting Crowns, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners”

When will we stop cutting down the body of Christ?  God created us to be one – one body, one church.  Our hearts will always be divided as long as we only see what each one is doing wrong and not what we are doing right.  And when we are wrong, why speak ill, but instead join in repentance in humble prayer for this body we are all a part of?  We will never reach the world for Christ if we keep tearing down our self.  Let’s share the gospel boldly even to one another.  Let’s make our anthem be “a song of praise to the King  “He is worthy, He is worthy” With one voice we will sing, “Where oh death is your sting” He is mighty, He is mighty.”

God, You are Mighty to Heal this Land and this church who desperately needs you to rebuild us.

Mandi Mapes | “We Are The Body” from AsiaStories on Vimeo.

Shared with Michelle for Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday, Seedlings in Stone for On, In, and Around Mondays, and Laura Boggess for Playdates with God.

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Comments

  1. Christina@toshowthemjesus.com says:

    My pastor recently did a series on Nehemiah. There is much to learn there about the body of Christ. I really appreciated this and your authentic heart. Blessings!

  2. We just talked about this in Sunday School a couple of weeks ago. As you so eloquently say, “When will we stop cutting down the body of Christ?  God created us to be
    one – one body, one church.  Our hearts will always be divided as long
    as we only see what each one is doing wrong and not what we are doing
    right.”

    Our Sunday School class came to much the same conclusion: Why do we point to the differences instead of looking just as diligently for the ways we are the same? Thanks for reiterating this challenge to respond differently!

  3. messymarriage says:

    This is so true and it’s exactly where Satan wants us to be–tearing down “ourselves,” as you’ve so aptly said, Jamie. I join you in being more vigilant against hurtful words and finding what builds others up! Great reminder!

  4. Hi Jamie,

    Yes, intercede for the Body of Christ – exactly.

    Love your humble heart, one God is willing to use. <3

     

  5. Oh, my goodness, I have never heard of Mandi. I am so googling her up. Thank you for sharing this gorgeous video.

    I’ve been there, friend. We’ve had storms in our worshiping body and they haven’t passed over yet. The advice you give here is wisdom that I too have learned the hard way. Good thoughts.

  6. alwaysalleluia says:

    Thank you so much for linking this up.  This: “God created us to be one – one body, one church. ”

    This is my passion. This is my heart’s home right now. So nice to “meet” you here (and on twitter) Looking forward to reading more.

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  1. […] hurt when our spouse hurts. If our spouse is in sin, we are participants in the sins of our spouse (think Daniel or Nehemiah), and we acknowledge our need for a Savior, […]

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