Friday, October 12, 2012

Blessed Be The TIE That Binds

Wednesday, while writing about money, tithe, giving, and love I said "blessed be the tithe that binds."  This is a play on words from an old hymn titled "Blessed Be The Tie That Binds," originally written by John Fawcett in the late 18th century.  A singing group known as "Sisters" did a rendition - actually, several renditions - of this song a couple of years ago at the Dove Awards (these are the major awards for "Christian" music held yearly in Nashville, Tennessee).  Watch the video, as I think it is instructive and illustrative for people today - not only in church or contexts, but in our society as a whole:


Same song.  Four different styles.  I like them all for different reasons, but mostly because they were well sung.  Truthfully, none of these four styles really "fit" what *I* would choose, if say, my church were to sing this song together in a gathering.  We also don't feature songs by southern gospel groups or even old hymns - though we like the best of them and aren't opposed to them at all.

In churches across the country and around the world, be it what we sing, or how we preach, or what we teach, there are a great many variations is both style and substance.  But at the core of who we are is that the Church, as Paul writes in the New Testament, the body of Christ.  In his letter to the Ephesians Paul says it this way:

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:2-6).


That is what the Church is supposed to look like - and it is what Jesus disciples should look like, too.  All too often, however, neither Church nor individual has reflected this teaching nor many of the other teaching of both Jesus and the Scriptures.  Instead they have been prideful, arrogant, impetuous, hurried, close-minded, and divisive.  Under such circumstances, is it any wonder that many people have chosen to go elsewhere when they desire to grow in their spiritual formation?

We see this every day in our culture as well.  Just last night I watched a very contentious political debate between two people who, in all likelihood, surely believe that they have the best interests of the country at heart, the right plans to bring those interests to fruition, the correct philosophies of governance, and the most helpful styles of leadership to get the job done.  These two men and their styles and even their beliefs could not have been more different.  But there should be a place at the table for both of them and their ideas, even though only one of them will be elected a few weeks from now. 

How tragic that in many churches, there is no place at the table, no room in the inn, for people who may differ in their views, because the songs of each one can be so beautiful when they are well sung.

I am not saying that all views on everything are equal, that truth is relative, or we should water down the wine of our spiritual formation until it is completely tasteless.  I am saying that there are core ideas that we should agree on and be united in, and that we should stick to those core ideas and build our unity on them - be that the unity within an individual, a local church, the larger Church, or in a culture, government, society or country.
 

I also recognize that there are certain ties that cannot be bound.  If I believe in Jesus and that He is God (and I do), and another person chooses non-belief or that there is no God...or that someone else is a god...or that there are multiple gods...we are going to have a big difference in our core ideas that will probably preclude us from say, being a part of the same religion.

But even such major differences as these do not have to preclude us from being friends, getting along, and loving one another.

In fact, that is a core idea that I am convinced everyone can and should be able to not only agree on (belief) but to also live by (practice).

Love.  Scripture says that "God is love" (I John 4:16, emphasis mine).  I pray that people everywhere will unite in this universal truth.

Blessed be the tie that binds.

phil

P.S. - Do you think it is possible for people in our world to unite in love?  Why or why not?  What about in the Church?  Can we sing the same song, even if the way we sing it is quite different? What about in your own heart and life - are you inwardly united by love?

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