Monday, 21 February 2011

The Piggy in the Middle

"Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."
(1 John 3:18)

What is going on here?

Fellowship was once so sweet and then it’s like the devil himself stepped in and suddenly, everything went “to hell in a hand basket,” as the old saying goes. Suddenly walls of distrust have once again started to be erected between brothers and sisters. Suddenly walls of division have once again even been erected between husbands and wives.  Suddenly, brothers that once fellowshipped regularly together are now rarely seen together, and when they are, there is a cautious tension in the air.  Suddenly tensions of mistrust and misunderstanding, ultimately related to a lack of love, are pulling marriages apart in the Body of Christ at a rate even higher than among the non-believers.  Something is very, very wrong.

Somewhere along the way we have opened the sin-door wide and invited the devil himself to come into our homes and into our fellowship. How have we done that? I’m not sure. Maybe it has to do with the way we have become guilty of not addressing sin in the lives of members in the church. Everyone is quick to say, “Don’t judge, don’t judge,” forgetting that we are to judge (in a discernment way, not condemnation way) the church. We forget that ultimately we are even to cast the sinning brother or sister out of the church if, after being confronted by the church, they persist in the their un-repented sin.  But we’ve dealt with this before in the article entitled The Fellowship of Demons so we won’t rehash all this here.

Do you remember the childhood game “Piggy in the Middle” where one person was in the middle and two others would throw a ball back and forth between themselves, all the while trying to keep the “piggy” from intercepting the ball? I never liked that game. In retrospect it seemed almost like a form of schoolyard bullying in that your fun was always at the expense of the “piggy in the middle.”

Today I feel like that “piggy in the middle” once again in that I feel caught between some of my Christian brothers who are throwing, not a child’s ball back and forth over my head, but are now throwing insults and slanders back and forth. I feel caught in the middle, as they seem now to refuse to fellowship with each other. I like both of them, and truly desire the fellowship of both of them, but they can’t seem to get along with each other any more. Sometimes I think it would be best to just walk out of all of their lives, because at least then I would no longer have to play these childish games any more. However, if I did that, then I’m also not living up to the Scripture that teaches us to not forsake the gathering of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25).

Where am I going with this? Let me try and explain. I was out for coffee with two friends recently. On this particular occasion I just about got up and walked out as I listened to the slandering of another Christian brother. It just sickened me to listen to the character-trashing of this other brother. Suddenly it was as my eyes were opened and I became aware of just how often we all are prone to doing the same thing. Over and over again, we faction the body of Christ with all our "petty" differences. Is this nonsense ever going to stop?

In my "awakening" I thought, maybe the slandered brother was wrong and maybe he wasn’t, but that really wasn't the point. There is no "yes, buts!" Aside from all our excuses, what was certainly wrong was the response that he got, behind his back no less, from the other professing Christians. What certainly was wrong was the “root of bitterness” (Hebrews 12:15) that was allowed to creep into the fellowship. We talk of the importance of love and relationships, and then we do this? Why can’t we all just get along? I’m tired of being the “piggy in the middle.”

Maybe we need to erect a big sign outside the place where two or more Christians gather that says, “Check your doctrines at the door, not your brains!” Doctrines divide! Maybe that’s why Paul said, “The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God” (Romans 14:22). We are called simply to "unconditionally" love, and not to slander each other with our doctrinal views about this, that, and the next thing!

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NIV).

Many a wedding has quoted those verses. Too bad they've become a sort of "pie in the sky" ideal that nobody really listens to, much less actually puts into practice. Too bad that all too often the opposite of almost every “love descriptor” mentioned here is exercised instead of the genuine love that the verses describe.  What is the opposite of love? It is hatred. There is no middle ground here. “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses” (Proverbs 10:12, ESV). When we see this “hatred” in other believers, we must call them on it, and likewise, when they see it in us, they must also call us on it. I'm sorry to say that I failed to do that in the coffee shop that day. I should have called them on it right then and there. Failure to do this only opens the door for the devil to be welcomed into our homes and into our fellowship.

I cannot go there with people any more. It’s not that I’m better than they are, the Lord knows I'm not. I can wrestle with an unloving and impure spirit all on my own, and I do not need to be around others who persist with an unrepentant angry spirit. That would only drag me down in my own quest to live the holy life God has called me to live, because without holiness no one will see the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:7; Hebrews 12:14).  I will continue to seek genuine fellowship as much as possible, and where ever possible, but I will not play “piggy in the middle” any more with those who persist in such pseudo-Christian bullying. Those who want to play that way can count me out.

Oh sure, I will still be cordial and respectful to all people as God gives me the grace and strength to do so, but I won’t look to such people for any sort of meaningful fellowship. How can I? People can say what they want and make whatever faith professions they want to, but the proof will always have to be in the fruits they produce (Matthew 7:16).

One of the problems with relationships is that we tend to develop the characteristics of those we hang around with. Hang around with a bully, and we can easily become bullies ourselves. Hang around with a man who swears a lot, and soon we begin to swear as well. Hang around with a godly man or woman, and we are likely to develop godly characteristics too. “Be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12, ESV). “Do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God” (3 John 11, NIV).

Don’t ask me to choose sides, for you may not like the answer that you get. As the Lord enables me, I will side with those who exhibit godly attributes and fruits every time. There is no room for “piggy in the middle” in the kingdom of God.  

What is going on here?

I'm not really sure but one thing I do know is that, since that day in the coffee shop, I've laid awake many nights wondering about this. One thing I know is that our dear Heavenly Father is trying to say something to me about this. One thing I know is that maybe it is time for personal examination. "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves" (2 Corinthians 13:5, NIV). If after doing so it becomes evident that you or I have failed that test, then maybe it's time to spend a little more time on our knees in repentance.

"Do not give the devil a foothold" (Ephesians 4:27, NIV). Have we done that? I wonder. God help us.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

2 comments:

  1. Greetings Brother,

    I must say that once again I enjoyed reading your article (Piggy in the Middle).I am in total agreement with you about Brothers and Sisters running down others of the body of Christ. It is very hard to be in the middle of conversations like that, and I believe you are right in saying that we should admonish such Brothers and Sisters for being Judgemental. It is better that we don't judge and let God be the judge.Paul and Barnabas stopped working together because of a disagreement, but that doesn't mean one was less effective than the other. God uses each one of us where He wants us to minister. If I can't minister with a brother or sister, then I just pull myself away from that person, but not to totally ignore them. If I see them I will definitely talk with them, but I will leave alone the subjects that we don't agree on. I love what God is doing in your life Brother and I just say to you, "Keep fellowshipping with the brethern that are of like mind, and when three are gathered and two want to put down someone else, just quietly get up and leave, or tell them to stop sinning openly by bearing false witness against someone else." God tells us to love one another, and that does not mean to rip someone apart. Keep seeking the Lord for guidance my Brother, and keep writing what God puts on your heart.

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  2. A further thought on hatred (the opposite of love). Proverbs 10:18 says, "He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool" (NIV).

    Why is concealing the hatred a problem? It is so because by concealing it we also never really deal with it and it will continue to remain a problem. If I am honest that I have a hatred (lack of love) for another person and bring that issue into the open with those I fellowship with, only then can we begin to finally deal with the problem.

    Too many of us simply continue to deny that there is a problem. Why do we do that? Is it pride? Do we think that others will think less of us if we admit that we have a problem in this area? If so, then this proverb says that we are LIARS. Well, fellow liar, what are we going to do about it?

    Whatever we do, we must STOP SLANDERING fellow believers!!! Failure to do so makes us even worse that liars; it makes us FOOLS.

    I make no apologies for being harsh with this topic. It is a serious issue and we cannot continue to pussy-foot around it any longer.

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