Friday, June 11, 2010

From Christianity Today: The Lord Who Acts Like It: Where did we get the idea that the church should be a place that makes people feel comfortable?
Days before the Enfield court case was decided, the Chicago Tribune ran a piece titled "Graduations at church cause unease." It described how many schools hold their graduation ceremonies in one particular megachurch in the metro area because, as one participant put it, it doesn't feel like a church. The absence of any visible sign of the church's Lord is apparently a point of honor for this congregation. According to the article, one of its staff said the lack of crosses and other Christian iconography "makes the space more welcoming for newcomers and more conducive for secular events."
"We don't want people to get hung up on that kind of thing," he said.
During its weekly services, he said, the church preaches the Word ("We want people to hear the word (of God)"), but all in all, "We try to make it an environment where people would be comfortable to sit and listen."
Making people comfortable is a good thing, part of Christian hospitality. But does it strike anyone else as odd how reticent many churches are to make it plain to visitors that when they enter the church, they are entering a sovereign state where someone besides the State is Lord?
In my younger years, I was an associate pastor of an English speaking church in Mexico City. The church ministers to missionaries, business people, and diplomats and their families. I once made a pastoral call on the economic attaché to the U.S. Embassy in his office. When I stepped into his office, there was no mistaking who was sovereign there. A large American flag hung off to the side of his massive desk, and a picture of the President of the United States hung behind. The embassy official was very cordial to me, and did indeed make me feel comfortable as we sat for coffee in a little receiving area at the front of his office. But there was no mistaking whom my friend served, and who was lord of that office.
There was a time in the church's life when people were killed for stating or symbolizing their allegiance to another lord besides Caesar. One can understand why some would flinch and stick their cross necklace under their toga, or meet secretly in places (like catacombs) bereft of Christian symbols. Caesar had no patience with people whom he suspected served another. And yet most did not flinch, and most continued to affirm in word and symbol the church's earliest creed: Jesus is Lord.
Today, when there is no risk to symbolizing one's allegiance to another Lord besides Capitalism or Democracy or America, why are we so hesitant to do so? Why is it that in the one place where we have the right and opportunity to proclaim the Lord of the kingdom of heaven, so many of us want to make it a place that is "conducive to secular events"? 
And why is it that church staff, called by God to enable the proclamation of Jesus' lordship, cannot grasp what a high school agnostic and federal judge understand—that Christianity is ruled by a Lord who has a habit of making people feel uncomfortable and offended because, yes, he demands their unqualified allegiance?

Amen to that. You know, I remember feeling quite sheepish when I first became a Christian, because I was notorious in my school for telling dirty jokes and so on. I did worry about what people might saying if they saw me reading a Bible.

But a godly brother encouraged me to share my new faith more openly, because he reminded me from 2 Cor 5:17 "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

So I started reading my Bible in public and even praying more openly. And of course, a changed life. Even took the opportunity to offer to pray for my non-Christian friends whenever they had a need. Most of them appreciated it. Hee. :) And I had a non-Christian classmate who wrote me a note saying that she admired my wholeheartedness for life.

And even in the workplace, thank God for the opportunity to shine, even tho I struggled to adjust in my working style, my colleagues still appreciated me as a friend, and took time to confide in me. I deeply treasure their friendships too, and feel honoured to be included into their lives.

Come to think of it, Jesus was so right. (Yes, that's stating the obvious I know...) I guess we are indeed salt and light, no matter how small we may feel at times. All the more we shouldn't hide, but show forth our light.
Matthew 5:14-16
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
But showing forth our light doesn't mean singing hymns really loud in public (I know one Christian who did this in his workplace... his singing, erm, ... heheh. ) or praying in tongues in public, or other things... what it means is that we intentionally do good deeds that come naturally out of our new nature, so that they may see our good deeds and praise God. We're not perfect, but we work our best, have the sweetest spirit among all our colleagues and friends, have the gentlest attitude if we're being bullied or shouted at, the most considerate and sensitive, the most honest, the most hardworking... just do our best in God's eyes. And if we fall short, seek God for His forgiveness, ask Him to help us get up again and empower us to shine even brighter like the stars that shine.

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