December 18, 2002
An outreach ministry like Reflections Regarding Responsible Reformation is sure to elicit a certain amount of response from the readers .... both positive and negative. Thankfully, the positive has thus far greatly outweighed the negative. I appreciate all of you who have written to express your gratitude and support for this ministry of reformation. Not a day has passed without several such uplifting and encouraging messages. To each of you I extend my heartfelt appreciation.
I also truly applaud those of you who have been courageous enough to write and express disagreement with my positions and perspectives. Thus far, the writers have been largely respectful in their approach and tone. I welcome challenges to my thinking and certainly don't perceive myself to be in any way infallible. I have changed before and don't mind doing so again if change is truly required.
On occasion I would like to share portions of posts to me by various readers, and portions of my responses to them. I am personally committed to replying to every person who takes the time to write, regardless of whether that letter to me is positive or negative. When I think some question may reflect the concerns of others who read these Reflections, I will try to share my response with all of you. Let me assure you, however, that I will never reveal the full names, or the email addresses, of those who correspond with me. I do not consider that ethical. Thus, you who choose to write to me never need to fear that you will be exposed or humiliated by me. I do not employ such tactics.
In this issue of Reflections I would like to share portions of my responses to a couple of subscribers who wrote to me in the past weeks. Both of these men took exception to some of my teaching and felt strongly enough about their perceptions that they were moved to communicate with me. I appreciate them very much and have entered into dialogue with both for the purpose of seeking to bridge the gaps between us. I pray that the following two portions of these dialogues will prove beneficial to all the readers.
The children of our heavenly Father.
You are exactly right, brother. We are His beloved children individually. That is one of my major premises, and I'm pleased to see you agree with it. We are not His children institutionally, but individually. In other words, I'm not a child of the Father because of my association with a particular group or movement or faction or party. I am a child of the Father because I am born from above. It is Paternity, not Party, that is determinative. It is my confession of a PERSON, rather than my conviction of a POSITION, that is redemptive.
How does one become a child of the Father? I would imagine my answer is the same as yours, brother. They hear and receive the good news of redemption in Christ, they believe it with all of their being, they are convicted in their hearts of the need to abandon their walk with the world and to turn to a relationship with the Father through the Son, they confess that Son as the way, the truth, and the life, and they evidence this faith by being immersed. They then begin that walk in the light where He is, and they strive to be daily conformed to His image .... a life-long journey.
Who do I have in mind? I have in mind ALL who have engaged in the redemptive process I specified above. Wherever God has a child, I have a brother or sister. There are indeed individuals who have followed the above redemptive process, but who are not within the group designated in the Yellow Pages as "Church of Christ." I personally know of individuals who have done the above, for example, who work and worship within the group known as the "Christian Church." I also know of those who have done the above who are in various non-denominational community churches. I further know of those who have done the above who assemble inside a building that has "Baptist" in the designation. Et cetera. These are all my beloved brethren, although such human distinctions of designation frequently cause barriers to be erected between brethren. I seek to bring these barriers down so brethren can experience sweet fellowship with one another. I'm not trying to get them all into one building under one common designation, but merely seeking to promote a brotherhood of all true believers. This is found and experienced IN HIM, by the way, and not in uniformity with respect to our various dogmas and deductions derived from personal study.
As I look at the group denominated "Church of Christ," I see scores of warring factions. The "one cup" brethren won't fellowship the "multiple cups" brethren. The "non-Sunday school" faction won't acknowledge as brethren those who "divide the assembly" into small classes for biblical instruction. Those who eat in the church building are condemned by those who perceive such an action to be sinful. Those who praise their God with instrumental accompaniment are condemned to "eternity in torture" by those who perceive a cappella to be the only accepted methodology. Yes, Fred, we are a divided and divisive movement. It is deplorable, and I seek to do something about it. I will expose this nonsense, and I will seek to win one disciple at a time to a more noble perception of FAMILY. If that makes me a "heretic" in the eyes of some, then I wear the title proudly.
Yes, I am. It will be developed in successive articles in this periodical.
It most certainly will.
I'm not sure I fully understand the point you sought to make to me, but I get the impression you are not totally pleased with my focus in these Reflections Regarding Responsible Reformation. If I have understood you correctly, you believe I should simply focus on the good and positive, and not speak to the negative. If I have misunderstood your point, then please correct me.
William, let me ask you this. If you are very ill and you go to the doctor, would you want him to deal with the illness and try to heal you, or would you want a series of lectures on healthy lifestyle and exercise and diet? There is a time and place for the latter, and these are vital concerns. Please don't misunderstand. But when the body is SICK you need to address the ILLNESS, not prescribe a regimen of exercise.
The Body of Christ is SICK, William. It is divided into warring factions. Brothers and sisters are so separated from one another that they will not even acknowledge the other as part of the family. Spiritual exercise and diet are important, but when the Body is this torn apart such a prescription is insufficient to effect healing. SOMEONE needs to speak to the ILLNESS, rather than lecturing on health maintenance issues. That is what I am seeking to do, brother. I am promoting HEALING of a sick and afflicted body. Before a body can begin exercising, it must first be restored to its much needed health. My purpose is to attempt to accomplish the latter. In so doing I in no way disparage the need to also promote the former. That just doesn't happen to be my particular focus in Reflections.
Surely, brother William, you DO recognize that we, as the churches of Christ, are horribly divided? You are aware of that, aren't you? How do you think this is going to be resolved? If we just IGNORE it, will it go away? If every little faction among us simply seeks to fulfill its "mission" apart from the rest of the family, will that heal the wounds? If we each live isolated from one another, will that bridge the chasms that separate us into exclusive little camps? SOMEONE needs to begin building those bridges, brother. SOMEONE needs to tell the emperor that he's naked, and then begin taking him some clothes. SOMEONE needs to DO SOMETHING.
The Lord rebuked the leaders of His people because "they have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, 'Peace, peace,' but there is no peace" (Jeremiah 6:14). Preaching peace is fine, William, but not at the expense of genuine healing of brokenness. My purpose and goal is to try and expose the brokenness of the people of God, and to then DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Yes, let's continue to preach positive things, but let us not neglect the healing of the people of God. The latter is far more critical to the LIFE of the patient.
The spiritually broken people of Isaiah's day demanded of their leaders, "You must not prophesy to us what is right, speak to us pleasant words, prophesy illusions" (Isaiah 30:10). Yes, some people want their "ears tickled" (2 Timothy 4:3), but the committed watchman of the people of God will "reprove, rebuke, and exhort with great patience and instruction" (2 Timothy 4:2). I simply seek to do the latter, brother, in my quest to bring healing to the brokenness of my brethren in the One Body.
I am a firm believer in proclaiming the positive message of grace. I believe a spiritually nourished and exercised Body does indeed function better in a hostile world. However, I also believe when the Body is torn and mangled, that something besides diet and exercise is called for. A Band-Aid on an arm with a compound fracture is simply insufficient .... and that is what we are facing today in the church. It is time for leaders to cease trying to heal the brokenness of God's people "superficially," and to be about the business of genuine restoration and reformation of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you would join me in this mission of mercy I would be honored.
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