by Al Maxey

Issue #415 ------- October 4, 2009
Prejudice, n. a vagrant opinion
without visible means of support

Ambrose Bierce {1842-1914}
The Devil's Dictionary

Disciples of a Different Stripe
Oooh! There's a Pee-Yew in the Pew

William James (1842-1910), a distinguished psychologist, philosopher and author, as well as a highly trained medical doctor, observed, "Our minds grow in spots; and like grease spots, the spots spread. But we let them spread as little as possible: we keep unaltered as much of our old knowledge, as many of our old prejudices and beliefs, as we can! We patch and tinker more than we renew! The novelty soaks in; it stains the ancient mass; but it is also tinged by what absorbs it." Simply put, most humans have an inherent tendency to resist any significant change to their fundamental perceptions and practices. Pride and prejudice are very difficult walls to scale for those who seek to bring greater spiritual enlightenment into the hearts and minds of their fellow man. Placing a patch on a prejudice is not renewal of thinking! Thinking that has become virtually fossilized (frozen in the past) is in need of being shaken to the very core. H.G. Wells (1866-1946), in his challenging work The World Set Free, stated that men need to be shaken, as though by a bomb blast, "out of their old-established habits of thought, and from out of the lightly held beliefs and prejudices that have come down to them from the past." Patching and tinkering simply will not get the job done. Some thinking is so deeply entrenched within us, the result of intense indoctrination, that it's going to take some very violent shaking to set us free to explore and ultimately embrace the greater Light from Above that awaits us.

One of those fundamental areas of perception and practice in dire need of an atomic blast is the way in which many within the Lord's church view their brethren. The caustic nature of their criticism and condemnation of one another is a foul, festering sore on the precious Body of Christ. When the world about us attacks its own (or us), such cruel affliction isn't all that surprising, but when brethren attack brethren, something is terribly, terribly wrong! And what makes all of this even more tragic is that we frequently inflict this suffering upon our spiritual siblings while seemingly believing within our hearts and minds that we are justified in doing so; indeed, that we are "doing God's will." Such is the depth of our devilish delusion. I don't like the "cut of your jib," so I broadside you with cannon fire in hope of sending you to the bottom of the sea! Now there's a really fine example of Christ-likeness!

James, the brother of our Lord Jesus Christ, spoke of just such a mindset among his first century brethren. "Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in" [James 2:2]. If they fall all over themselves showing special consideration to the former, while displaying disdain for the latter, "have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?" [vs. 4]. "But that guy is poor; he's smelly; he looks different." James points out -- "Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him? But, you have insulted the poor" [vs. 5-6a]. "But just think of what that rich person can do for us!!" Oh, really?!, says James. "Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble Name of Him to whom you belong?" [vs. 6b-7]. Yes, brethren, for 2000 years we have been sucking up to the godless and shucking off the godly. Not exactly a glowing testimony to our spiritual discernment.

Even John, later lauded as "the apostle of love," was not exempt from this fault. On one occasion he informed Jesus, "Master, we saw a man driving out demons in Your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us" [Luke 9:49; cf. Mark 9:38]. That man was a disciple of a different stripe; he wasn't in our group; he didn't walk with us. Well, guess what, John? He didn't have to! If he was "in Christ Jesus," then that was sufficient ... i.e., from the perspective of the Throne (and that is truly the only perspective that ultimately matters). I would be a wealthy man if I had a dollar bill for every time I heard a brother say of another brother, "He's not one of us!!" Oh? You mean he's not a disciple of Jesus Christ? He's not a Christian? He's not a part of the universal One Body? He's not saved? Ahhh, I understand -- what you meant was: he isn't part of our group. He's a disciple/Christian/believer/saint of a different stripe! Can't have those people around, now can we?! They contaminate our comfort zones; pollute our pews; stink up our sanctuaries. "They need to assemble with their own kind!"

"We'd really rather the blacks assemble down the street with their own kind." "Sorry, Whitey, but you got the wrong church; your people are the next block over." Insert whatever ethnic/racial group you like in these statements and you have some indication of what transpires around the globe on a daily basis. It is shameful!! "Our congregation caters to those in the suburbs; I think you must be looking for the Downtown Church of Christ --- they are the ones who minister to all those inner city hooligans!" Nope, can't have that rabble out here with us good, decent, respectable Christians! Those people clearly aren't "one of us," you know! I guess Jesus wasn't either! After all, the Lord hung out with hookers and tax collectors and a bunch of uneducated fishermen. So, it was only natural that all the respectable religious leaders were offended by Christ's behavior: "Why does He eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" [Mark 2:16]. Which, of course, led to the only conclusion possible -- "Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and 'sinners'" [Luke 7:34; Matt. 11:19]. He's simply not one of us, you know. Just not quite the Messiah we were looking for.

That guy over there ... see him? ... yeah, that one -- he sings praises to God with instrumental accompaniment. That's right ... he's one of those digressive types; a liberal. Not one of us, you know. We can't fellowship him. And that fella over yonder? Yup ... him! One of those "One Cuppers!" Legalists ... all of them! They're all alike. Brethren, if you think such remarks are "far fetched," then you need to get out more. Such comments abound "among us," and, frankly, they're disgusting. They eat in a church building. They have a Bible class. They read from the NIV. They support colleges and homes for the aged and orphans. Their preacher spoke at Pepperdine last year. Nope ... they're not one of us!!

Brethren, may I be blunt?! Why our God has not come down here and literally "slapped the stupid" out of some people is beyond me!! All of our sectarianism and factionalism is appalling. We fuss and fight, feud and fragment over every conceivable "issue" known to man (most of which, interestingly, are never even mentioned by God). We seemingly care little if a person is one of HIS; we're interested in whether he or she is one of OURS. Does he have the right spirit?! Who really cares, as long as he is of the right stripe. While we hold our noses over the "smell" of our brethren, our Father is holding His nose over the "stench" emanating from us!! It is time for change! Not so much a change in our practices, as a change in our perceptions. The change for which I plead in my teaching, preaching and writing is a change of heart -- a change in how we view one another. It's a plea for LOVE to rule supreme within our hearts and lives. Let's cease eviscerating the saved, and return to evangelizing the lost. Let's stop accosting those in the light, and return to approaching those in the darkness. Now that is a disciple of a stripe we can each easily embrace.

Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

A 200 page book by Al Maxey
Publisher: (301) 695-1707

Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Dear Brother Al, Thank you so much for all of your great Reflections articles. You have been a great help to me in my Christian journey. I would like to order your PowerPoint Sermons on CD for both 2007 and 2008, as well as a copy of your book Down, But Not Out. Also, I would be very, very grateful if both you and Shelly would sign the book for me. I have enclosed a check which should cover everything, and please keep the extra.

From a Minister in Alaska:

Dear Brother Al, Thank you so much for your last issue of Reflections ("The Adiaphoristic Controversy"). It spurred me on to do some critical thinking, and also to spend some time in reflective prayer on what is really important. May God bless you in your ministry.

From a Minister in Maine:

Brother Al, I cannot imagine how a person could believe, as I actually heard from a stage at Freed-Hardeman University in 2006, "He is my brother, but I cannot fellowship him!!" This was said by a faculty member about one who did not believe that the use of instruments in worship was sinful. I have tried to engage some of our more "conservative/traditionalist" brethren about whether the following statement accurately describes their so-called "pattern theology" -- "The grace of the cross has brought us salvation from past sins. Thereafter, salvation depends upon our finding and obeying His laws/rules for living and for being His church, including acceptable worship." Not a single person has responded! Do you suppose "patternism" might be formulated thusly? -- (CENI + S - E = P). Commands, Examples, Necessary Inference plus the law of Silence minus any exceptions we deem to be Expediencies equal The Pattern. It seems some brethren are saying that we must all be Enigmatologists -- first solving the puzzle/riddle hidden in scattered NT passages; finding just exactly what God wants from us; thereby earning and meriting the right to go on and obey the many further rules for salvation.

From a Minister in Kentucky:

Brother Al, I am a preacher for a very conservative Church of Christ in -------, Kentucky. Non-institutional, non-instrumental, etc., etc. Over the past year or so, however, I have been on a journey in my faith!! I have tried to approach God and His Word as honestly and open-mindedly as I know how, and I have begged for His help in this effort. He's been showing me things that I never, EVER thought I would find within His Word!! I have become particularly troubled over our CENI hermeneutic, and more specifically with the regulative principle we've formulated known as "the law of silence." Your material, brother, has been very helpful to me on this, and what you teach represents conclusions to which I myself have now come. Thank you so very much, Al.

From a Minister/Author in Washington:

Dear Brother Al, I want to express my gratitude for your insight on matters of eternal consequence, not the least of which is your battle against those who would set in place another "law" which none of us could ever keep! Keep on keeping on!! Also, I'm sending you a copy of my book on Romans.

From a Minister in Kentucky:

Brother Al, It has been a while since I've written, but I just wanted you to know that I'm still reading. In fact, I've recently been enjoying some of your older articles in your Archives. I always enjoy your thought-provoking insights. I can tell that you put a lot of hours into your research and study of God's Word. Thank you for your continued dedication and commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ.

From a Minister in California:

Dear Brother Maxey, Let me begin by saying that I continue to appreciate your teachings; you are such an enormous blessing in my life and in the lives of so many others! I pray that the Lord will bless you with many more years in His service. Because of your Reflections, I am able to view the Word through fresh eyes, which is something I thought impossible only two years ago! Also, I want to compliment you on the clever alliteration you use in so many of your Reflections. Fantastic!! By the way, I recently obtained a copy of Behold the Pattern by Goebel Music. This is one of the most smug, cynical and unChristian tomes I've ever cracked. Not to mention it reads like the Church of Christ version of "Dianetics." The only pattern I found in the pages of this book was a pattern of attacking people who love Christ and are simply trying to do what they feel is right in His sight. I would be ashamed for anyone outside of our denomination to actually read it.

From a Reader in California:

Brother Al, When my aunt grew old, afraid and only a little senile, knowing that I knew the Bible, she asked me, "What do you think will happen to me when I die?" Since her attention span was quite short, I quickly formulated a one sentence response. "Well, if God has been taking care of you while you are alive, then for sure He will take good care of you when you are dead." She took a great deal of comfort in that. "That's the best answer I ever heard," she said, beaming. Reflecting on my answer after twenty years and a lot more Bible study, I still think it is about the best answer that can be given, and it gets right to the heart of the matter.

From a Reader in Ohio:

Bro. Al, You don't know me, but a dear friend introduced me to your Reflections, and I am so grateful!! Thank you for showing me, a Church of Christ "lifer," that some things truly ARE "adiaphoric." May God bless all you do!!

From a Reader in Kentucky:

Brother Al, I have been meaning to contact you earlier. I just want to let you know how much I appreciate your help as a spiritual guide in opening other avenues of thought for me! I have always felt that if one is truly searching for and honestly seeking after Truth, then God will provide. He's done that for me with your writings. I have been a member of the Church of Christ for most of my life. I, like many others, thought that my salvation was assured because I was "right" on issues such as instrumental music, giving, the Lord's Supper, fellowship, evangelism and a host of other topics. I had been conditioned to defend "our" views and pass judgment on all who disagreed with "us." Years and years of this "issue-ism" had removed me from my first Love. Now I wonder how some of these things ever became "issues" at all. Again, thank you, brother, for your help in bringing me out of this mindset.

From an Elder in Florida:

Dear Bro. Al, Thank you for an excellent Reflections today ("The Adiaphoristic Controversy"). It reminded me of a time nearly forty years ago when I was in New Zealand. An older gentleman visited us one Sunday evening, and he asked what he needed to believe before he could be baptized. The only answer I could give him was that he needed to believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior. He then showed me a page filled with a long list of doctrines and positions he would need to understand and embrace before the Christadelphian group, with whom he had been studying, would allow him to be baptized. I know of very few of our brethren today who would actually hand someone such a legal list, however many of our more legalistic brethren (as you well know) do indeed have such a list that people must accept before they will regard them as "faithful brethren." For me, I prefer the teaching of Paul in Romans 15:7 -- "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you!" I should accept others on the same basis as He's accepted me -- my submission to the Good News and a life of penitent faith! By the way, would you please send me an autographed copy of your book Down, But Not Out? I'll have a check in the mail today.

From a Minister in Kansas:

Dear Brother Al, One Cup man here! The meeting/revival of the One Cup brethren (all those who have been cast out of the Old Paths Advocate directory) was held in Lamar, Arkansas from September 18-20. The meeting was fantastic!! Brethren from Texas, Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas attended. The Bible subjects presented were both timely and uplifting. This annual gathering is growing in numbers, and several congregations are now very interested in hosting these upcoming meetings/revivals. The spirit of cooperation was very refreshing! I let all the brethren there know about your upcoming (March 24-27, 2010) appearance as one of the speakers/teachers at The Tulsa International Soul-Winning Workshop in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Several are making their plans right now to attend. Al, thanks again for all your efforts in the Lord's kingdom, and may God bless all who seek unity!

From a Reader in Florida:

Dear Brother Maxey, This is my first occasion to write to you, as I've always thought you are far too busy to deal with every comment you might receive from your thousands of readers. I was raised in a very, very rigid "anti-everything" church, but we finally have come to Florida where my family and I are now leaning toward grace and mercy rather than laws and traditions!! What a JOY to be in the congregation we are now in! Things that we used to think were not acceptable, are now not only perceived as acceptable ... but are actually practiced: raising hands, women praying in a mixed group, even clapping. The ministers and elders are teaching freedom in Christ rather than bondage to traditions. Yes, we have lost members because of this new attitude of grace over law keeping, but we have also grown so much spiritually and are on fire for the Lord. We are not afraid to follow where the Spirit leads. Freedom at last!! This is where your teachings have been such a tremendous help to us here. I have been sharing many of your Reflections with the ministers and elders, and they have been using them in their studies here. Thank you so much for what you do and continue to do!! We have been praying, and we'll continue to send prayers to God, on your behalf. Your work is of the utmost importance! It is powerful, and it is full of mercy! Brother Maxey, you have set so many people free from their bondage to tradition! Words will never be able to convey my heartfelt gratitude for what you have done for us!! May God richly bless your family and your ministry!!

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