Friday, February 13, 2009

Rules and Regulations

I've found myself bucking the system lately.  This system is one comprised of rules and laws and endless stream of tradition.  This system is the "church" as we know it.  This system isn't working.

Within the past few months, I've wanted a deeper walk with God. I've prayed that he give me His heart, and he gave it to me.  I can't walk into a situation and not feel it as God would. I often find myself trying to figure out these feelings, and searching my motives and testing my actions because of the power of this feeling of love.  He has granted my heart to increase in love for those hurting around me. How do I put that in a box?

Then, before I went to South Africa, I prayed that He would grant me His eyes, that I may see people as God see them, and he granted them to me.  I can pick out the lost and hungry and hurting in a room. I can look into their eyes and see their soul and watch their heart cry out. For those of you thinking, this is "BS", I can tell you that this is a terrible burden to bear.  It's like you walk around and see half the people with a sign over their head with what is keeping them from abundant life.  But the sign is very fuzzy and I can't read it without getting really close.

I've discovered that these two gifts of God can easily get me into trouble. So I have prayed for God's wisdom as well. It doesn't help to feel and see, if you don't know what to do!  This was a recent addition, but I believe I am in the transition period of receiving this gift through the journey He has been taking me on.

This past weekend has kicked of that journey in the full.  I won't go into any details, but I've been confronted by one in the ministry about my love and connection with those around me.  In particular, we had a disagreement over how close I should get to those who hurt.  As a backstory, I've been counseling people one-on-one over chat for a while now, and predominately women.  I have also been called to be a father to the fatherless of some of my youth, both girls and boys, but particular girls (most likely due to raw statistics in that area)

The issue that this fellow ministry friend brought up was that I should NEVER be alone with a woman. NEVER drive in the same car alone with them and NEVER talk to them without another person present. I respectfully disagreed with these rules.  The kids I counsel would NEVER trust anyone else with what I have been entrusted with, would NEVER see me as anything but a friend, father and counselor because I and God would not allow it and I would NEVER leave a youth alone if I felt they were endanger.  Quite frankly, I don't think this person has dealt with non-church kids on a level that is required in this day and age.

Now I've been struggling with this whole topic for a while, and honestly, this person's wisdom is good, don't get me wrong. I've actually am trying to get myself out of a place where others could see something happening that isn't that would compromise my ministry.  But here's the thing that I can ABSOLUTELY promise this person... I cannot stand back and watch people hurt.  I can't do it.  I now have the heart and eyes of God and the burden in that is that I see your hurt and their hurt and cannot help but to reach a hand out to heal.  In fact, I really don't care if it looks "good" or not, I don't consider the consequences... I value loving others above making myself look good.

1 Corinthians 10:24
Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

So my focus is to build you up, and to build them up, and more importantly to figure out how to heal you so that the cry of your heart can be comforted.  So yes, I will go out of my way for you, and bring you food and water when you need it.  I will hold the door and ask you how your day was and even offer you a back rub in a public place because "that's what Jesus would do".  Plain and simple.  But yet, my motives are constantly questioned, my relationship with that person constantly reminded. Can this world not see a glimmer of perfect love and think it's something it's not? I tire of that world. I hate that life.

Luke 14:26-17
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Instead, I get a litany of rules and regulation and standards and best practices written by men to control men. I get these recited, page after page, the levitical nature of a church trying to control and to put the power of God in a box. This has bothered me ever since I heard it, not because I disagree with the inherent wisdom (again I'm taking that into consideration) but by the fact that you, the church, are trying to protect others from this love that God has for them. How am I to touch the world when you make me to wear oven mitts just in case I might get burnt? Isn't our God more powerful and mighty than that? I think so.

And so I've been praying that God would answer this and reveal to me some kind of confirmation that I'm not crazy.  This person has recently told me that I need to seek help because evidently this thing welling up within me is not of God.  I am taking this person's advice and working on increasing the number of men of God with whom I communicate, but I still wanted more, I needed to know that my desire to reach out and touch the world one-on-one was not a deception. And of course, God answered.  He does that for me. (Thanks God!)

I was chatting with the husband of one of my friends from camp. He's a pastor out in Pittsburgh and he reassured me on a number of fronts, and provided some ideas on other fronts. But he mentioned a verse about how we shouldn't even produce the "appearance of sin". I wanted to look up that verse so I could read more (it's good advice) and I was doing a keyword search. I think God had a different verse in mind for me this morning:

Colossians 2:20-26
Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Bingo. This is what I believe. I take the bible at it's word, and take God at His word.  I can give you other verses that say this in other ways, namely Romans Chapter 8.  We no longer operate under the law, we operate above the law (cue Knight Rider theme song)

The church has lived in fear.  Fear that something bad could happen if we dare to love the world as Jesus intended. We make rules and regulations and boundaries to "protect" ourselves from ourselves and then we worship those rules and judge others on how well the abide by them. I have news for you, church... that's not Christianity, that's something not of God.

In fact, if you really are ready to do the work of the Kingdom,
you better come to terms with an important axiom: 
Love is inherently dangerous

I'm not saying that wisdom is not good, but if it inhibits people from getting the love of God and the good news, then I will use my own wisdom that is granted to me by God.  Why? Because all their rules in the world are not going to stop someone with a sexual immorality problem from not having those thoughts, but the love of Jesus and the power of the Spirit can heal that man or woman COMPLETELY. Of this I am sure because that was the ONLY way that I was cured. And to say otherwise denies the power of God. If that is your religion, than I don't want it. It is powerless and useless and should be thrown away.  But what I seek is relationship with the Living God, the God who has filled me up with Living Water that wants to flow all over the place. So I apologize if you get a little wet from the Super Soaker. Blame God, I'll give you His number.


Stephen Pick said...

you know that i am not a christian but i believe in God and i believe in love. I told you that my beliefs are based on selflessness which is love in a action. but the entire time i read this post i started fearing for you. i was afraid for you. loving people is a great thing but i really do think you should care about what people see and can misunderstand when they see you with others. I have seen more than one persons ministry destroyed by what others thought was happening.....and sometimes what the people being ministered to were saying. you said you are teaching youth, and many females... this is so dangerous in this time because many of these people have been affected by ungodly parents and they dont know what kind of damage they can cause by speaking.
Do you think u can better serve God by following a few rules and continuing your ministry or by having your reputation destroyed and no longer able to minister?

on another topic, be careful when u say that you "take the bible at its word." are you really ready to say and back up everything the bible says? if so, just one of the few things u will need to be ready to enforce is that your wife, or any woman for that matter is not allowed to speak in church. and since the bible says it, everytime she speaks in church, she sins.

Stephen Pick said...

it is a good thing to reach out and sometimes be seen ministering to those who need it most in places you shouldnt be, but this one topic is the only one that i have evey come across that should never be gone at alone. if your wife shares your beliefs or you can find someone else who is an older female to at least be there when u speak to these youth, it is wise. i pray for you that there will be understanding in the minds of the people you come across, and the minds of those who see you with them. i pray that the evil that hides in the innocense of youth will not be able to destroy you. please be careful