The Rule Book is the appeal of many denominations today. It may be the canon of church law, the United Methodist book of Discipline, or even the laws of the Bible. Whatever the case, the rule book is what most Christian leaders refer to in some way or other. I suppose such appeals are necessary to provide a “framework” for our activities in the church. Mostly, however, the rule book becomes the way we hamstring the work. The rules can be as much a frustration for one’s self as it can be a satisfying club to use on one’s adversaries.
The word “adversary” may be the problem here. The Hebrew phrase “ha’satan” meaning “the adversary” is where we draw the proper name Satan for the one who opposes God. It is an easy step to take from my attempt to be on God’s side to those who think differently from me to being in league with the devil (or worse yet sold their souls). It is easy to forget that our God is one of love. And that God may even love the devil.
All followers of Jesus are bound by the “new commandment” from John 13:35. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”(NRSV). In deed as well as in feeling and vocal affirmation, we are given a covenant of love to uphold and by which to live. Our only problem is that we often fear that Jesus had no idea what he was talking about.
We often imagine the worst possible outcomes from controversy. And yet, we often believe the worst possible scenario is that we may lose the debate, the election, the fight, or the standing we possess. We fail to realize that when we lose love for one another we Christians lose no matter how often we appear to win arguments. By losing the covenant of love we lose the happiness, the blessedness, or the beatified state to which we are called. Can we despise brother or sister in Christ and still properly love Christ?
Christians fell into the trap of wanting the approval of the world and the powers that be a long time ago. Too often we are debating which people of the world whose approval we want. And yes, I know, issues surrounding justice, life, and peace are important. My position is that these issues are only settled when we truly want to practice the new commandment Jesus gave all of his disciples.
Please heed these words. Love for God and humankind is more important than any other issue the church is involved in today.

A Christian Life-style Choice No Longer in Vogue.

The Christian in the United States does not do repentance anymore. The Church no longer expects it. Denominations no longer require it. The commission of the Church to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins to the world is lost in the shuffle to grab as many members as we can. Evil triumphs in the churches because we refuse to confront sin and demand repentance. Congregations are broken because Christians now think that someone who wrongs them is supposed to be forgiven no matter what.
Please do not mistake what I am saying here. Forgiving another person’s sin is important for the preservation of the Christian community. However, a person whose actions have broken the fellowship of the Church or the local congregation owes the body of Christ a change of heart, mind, and actions along with confession of sin before the healing of forgiveness can truly be accomplished.
Protestant churches do not practice “penance” often. A few ritual observances do not mean a life is changing. So why should a muttered act of contrition be all that is required? Church leaders, both clergy and lay, should be held accountable and if possible make restoration for faults committed against God in Christ. Yet, time and again, church lay members and clergy will say, “Should not we just forgive?” However, there is nothing just in the desire to avoid the hard work of accountability and repentance. Sin is not truly acknowledged nor is restoration truly made.
Repentance and forgiveness is the beautiful beginning and at times the restoration of Christian fellowship. These two life-style actions make the church more than a civic club or a non-profit business venture. Repentance and forgiveness allows us to live in the reign and kindom of God. When Christians are convicted of wrong from having committed evil actions, we learn that we cannot judge and condemn the world for sin we too commit. Through repenting and receiving forgiveness the body of Christ learns how to help the people of the world to become free of the trap of sin.
Christians and congregations should examine ourselves against the model of Jesus in Scripture and choose again the life-style choices of repentance and restoration for the glory of God.