Thought

A thought from years ago has been rolling around my head for weeks now.

While still a student, I recall listening to some teachers discuss the role of government in our society. More specifically, the conversation was about the place of government in influencing a country’s ethics. It was around the time of an election, and the topic of Christians in government was getting attention. In some minds, the thought is simply one like, “If only we had some Christians running our country, then we’d get things straightened out.”

Of course, one is shocked to learn that if a flawlessly moral leader (Christian or otherwise) were ever found, the trouble would then begin:

How would he/she possibly get the rest of the nation to do what was right? No one can make up the minds of others. Right and wrong (even if they could be agreed upon) cannot be legislated or forced upon another free person. There’s simply no loving way to make someone do something. If “Bruce Almighty” taught us anything, it should have taught us that… along with how nasty little monkeys can be.

So…

Back in that discussion, I recall someone taking a stab at defining what the role of government then was in the whole process of “making people good”. They said something like this: “Good government should make it easier for people to do the right thing and more difficult for people to do the wrong thing.”

Hmmm.

That thought has been twisting and mutating in my mind lately.

How does it apply to the church?

How does it speak to attempting to lead among God’s people?

We often speak of our very real needs for accountability, encouragement, and challenge to be all that God calls us to be. How might we actually structure our congregations so that it became easier to do what we should and harder to fall short?

How might I build my relationships with others so that their touches on my life have this kind of effect?

How can I personally structure my life to increase my chances at actually becoming what I know God wants me to be and decrease my chances of failure and frustration?

Grittier questions: Do we actually desire that? Or do we just say we do because that’s what we should say?

These thoughts have been brought to you by the Department of Scattered Minds. If you care to join the Department, leave a comment containing your own scattered-but-slightly-connected thoughts.

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4 thoughts on “Thought

  1. I’ve heard it said that the great thing about American (read North American) culture is not freedom, it is the fact that we tell on each other. If something you are doing is dangerous or illegal, I can go to the police and they will intervene. The news media fishes out improper activity of politicians and leaders and lets everybody else know what’s going on. It’s these and other checks and balances that keep our country a relatively safe place to live and work.

    I don’t know if we should “tell on each other” at the church but the idea of making it easier for people to do the right thing and more difficult to do the wrong thing is appealing. Community in the church is important, and this idea should be part of the role of a community. I think a good start is having someone you are accountable with.

    I think your last question of do we actually desire that structure – I know part of me likely doesn’t, but that’s the same part I war with everyday in my quest to have Jesus shape my life and do His work through me. Having help in that battle would be a good thing.

  2. Nice thoughts, Wade.

    I agree with you that the battle rages in ourselves as to whether we desire such accountability or not, which in itself, tells me that I NEED such a thing.

    While I don’t think the church is here to “control” its members, I share your feeling that there is appeal in the idea that a congregation might make it easier for its members to do what God wants and harder to do otherwise. I guess, I struggle to picture what this might look like.

    One example: How might a congregation structure or run itself so that its members were more prone to battle against materialism and pursue lives of generosity than to submit to the force of wanting and consuming that are dominating forces around the world?

    More personally, how could a congregation function so that I MYSELF might feel more inclined towards the good than the bad? Casual association won’t do it. Truthfully, within many churches, even faithful attendance might not provide one with what’s really needed to identify and make significant changes.

    I don’t know. Am I being too cynical? Maybe my questions just betray the truth that I wish I found it easier to change myself.

  3. I think first of all that we need to genuinely love the people we interact with. I say this knowing this isn’t always the case in my life. This is something we can pray for. I think once this love develops, we will yearn for people to grow and live the way God wants, and in turn we will see ways to help them do this.

    Another step is to teach Joe churchgoer:
    1) What God wants/expects with regard to things like sin, generosity, the poor, our neighbours, money, attitude
    2) Where we fit in to the teachings on these subjects-help people take an honest inventory of where they are with things. One big thing I’ve learnt in the last while is that when Jesus says “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” – he is talking about me. I have a home, car, job, money in the bank, therefore I am in the top 1% of the richest people in the world. This knowledge affects how I am to live. I did not think about this in the past.

    I guess that’s a long winded way to say that I don’t really have any practical ideas on how to incline people toward the good in life.

    “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”
    — GK Chesterton

  4. We need to genuinely love people… amen.
    We need to pray for this to happen in our lives… amen.
    We are among the world’s wealthiest people ever… amen.
    And it matters how we use it… amen.

    Nothing long-winded or impractical about what you’re saying, Wade. As I said earlier, such things as these can’t be legislated. Really, we don’t even see Jesus attempting to legislate such ideals… though he’d have had every right to try. Maybe it’s to happen more within the flow of life, especially within the flow of life TOGETHER.

    Within a community or circle of friends, who all desired such things and shared openly about their journeys into such things, I have no doubt that each of us would find strength, inspiration, and encouragement to push onwards. At its heart, the church is likely supposed to be that group of people, where such things happen as we connect our lives to one another’s.

    Perhaps my original question is more like this: How might churches structure and function to make it as easy as possible for THIS to happen and as unlikely as possible for people to live with less?

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