Thursday, August 29, 2013

We will so order our lives

There's a promise of commitment congregations in my faith tradition make whenever someone is baptized. This statement is designed to remind everyone that the growth and living out of the Christian life is nurtured in community. The commitment we, the congregation, pledge at baptism, reflects a understanding that, day in and day out, it is the example of other Christians that helps each of us see what the faith is all about.

The commitment promise opens with the phrase, "With God's help, we will so order our lives after the example of Christ that..."

I've been pondering Colossians 3:1–17 recently, that mysterious passage that talks about our new life hidden in Christ and what it should look like. There's a veritable laundry list of things to put aside and things to embrace:
To put aside: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed; anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language; lying.

To embrace: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience; bearing with each other, forgiving each other; love, and the peace and word of Christ; gratitude; praise; wisdom.
When I think about the churches I have been part of and what beset them, when I look around at what the most prominent and vocal Christians in this country are known for, when I mull over what passes for Christian dialog on the Internet, and when I look at my own life, I see too many of the things we should put aside and not enough of the things we should embrace.

And then I wonder about the Christian witness in this world. Are we "so ordering our lives" or not? It seems to me that when the world considers our witness, it does not see enough of the example of Christ in those of us who go by his name. And those children and new believers that we are to bring up and nurture in the tenets of our faith? What exactly is it we are teaching them?

When we get caught up in endless "culture war" finger pointing at those who are not Christian and couple it with the intramural fighting that we've become known for, how is that "so ordering our lives after the example of Christ"? Who, exactly, is coming to know Christ this way—and those who are, what is it they think the life hidden in Christ is really all about?

When we build our churches around things other than those that mattered the most to Jesus himself, what are we teaching our children and new believers about what it means to be Jesus' disciples?

If we say "Christian" on the outside, but are filled with those things we are to put aside and exhibit very little of what we are to embrace, what good are we? When and where this is the case, the picture shifts from engaging in nurturing and building up people in the faith to assessing what kind of damage are we doing to them.

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