The “Issues

October 15, 2023

On one occasion during bible class, we talked about worship and how the characteristics of God inform how we worship. One participant asked, “what do you think it is about humans that makes it hard to develop the attitudes and characteristics of God?” In the context of the class we had talked about the Pharisees, Saul, the people of Israel. All of these at various times were told their worship was unacceptable because they were not Godly. Sometimes it was injustice, sometimes it was not being merciful, sometimes it was not being faithful. In each case the people were told doing the right forms does not make your worship right. 

     This is true today as well we can’t go along thinking that because I am worshiping I must be right with God. The Pharisees worshiped while not honouring their parents (Mark 7). Saul claimed he disobeyed God so he could worship (I Sam 15:13-15). The people in Amos’s time worshiped while not maintaining just practices (Amos 5:18-27). All of them were told their worship was not acceptable to God. The point we are making is that the worshiper needs to be developing the characteristics of God. God is just, those who want to worship him must be just, God is merciful therefore those who want to worship him must be merciful. We could go on and on, and many other examples are mentioned in scripture. 

     The point is God draws us to him and reveals himself to us so that we can become like him (Rom 8:29). If we’re not being conformed to the image of Christ we are missing the point. It was in this context that the question was asked “why do we have such a hard time with this?” When I asked the audience to offer suggestions they gave me a number of good ones all is relating to human tendencies and all having one thing in common. They all came down to who is first. If I put myself and my desires first then I will never become like anyone else including God as revealed in Christ. And this is what brought me to thinking about those subjects which are sometimes called “the issues.”

     As I thought about the various beliefs and practices that have become problematic among churches of Christ I began to notice a theme. It’s always about selfishness. Marriage divorce and remarriage, instrumental music, gender roles, baptism and the plan of salvation, even the advocating of a new hermeneutic, all amount to humans saying to God I am going to do what I want. I want to violate my marriage vows and then marry someone else. I want to worship with a guitar, I want to be the final authority on what the bible means by what it says. 

     And this brings us to the real question. Do we love God and do we believe that he loves us? If we love him and think that he loves us then there is no place for pushing our desires. Jesus said he would know those who loved him because they would obey. A short illustration makes the point well. If I want to show Nancy how much I love her how would I do it? Would I plan a date of playing X-box and eating chicken wings? No because those are things I like, instead I would ask what would Nancy like, what would she enjoy and then I would do that. Love asks what does God want, not how can I manipulate the situation to get what I want.

~ Kevin Cleary