I came across this song by Casting Crowns recently. Driving to work, I played it again and again and I mourned in my heart. I mourned because the message of the song was painfully true and achingly relevant to our time.
In my early days as a Christian, I heard a lot about speaking the truth in love. We didn’t always get it right when it came to application but somehow, we stumbled forward to share, teach, rebuke, correct and encourage one another without breaking fellowship. It was tough but we found a way.
Later, as I grew in the faith, I came across the concept that knowledge puffs up but love edifies, and that the letter kills but the spirit makes alive. We were encouraged, nay, charged to seek knowledge with all passion and to seek The Spirit with equal passion because one without the other was never balanced. I somehow realised, maybe because of the pervading mindset then, that seeking knowledge of scriptural truth with the Holy Spirit as your friend and tutor with love as your motivation was the way to go.
But what I see now, both far and near, is a situation where knowledge is power seems to have evolved. It’s power to mock those who make mistakes or have it wrong, or are totally ignorant. It’s the power to shield yourself from rebuke since you know as much, or even more, Scriptures than the person with the authority to set you straight when you err. In fact, what is error now if not a concept based on relative disparity in levels of enlightenment and therefore can be argued and justified. Afterall, you can’t rebuke me unless you can prove that I am guilty, right?
Many of us have enough knowledge now to protect ourselves from those who would take advantage of our ignorance but then we have so much as to be beyond the reach of those who seek to guide us.
But that’s not the worst part, which is the message of this song. The problem is that what we know and the insights we’ve gained have pushed us apart rather than bind us together. Each thinks, “I’m better off without this other person because of what he doesn’t know”.
For some, it takes the form of quarrels in defence of their Kingdom service territory, castigating anyone who doesn’t seem to be getting with the program to attain this desired level of excellence or output. And so we have two people who are actually on the same team battling each other as enemies because they refuse to lift up their heads to see the big picture.
For others, it’s that we want to be right so strongly that we forget to be decent and kind with each other. We pursue upholding the truth but don’t mind tearing others down to do it. (I wish to God that all this aggression were directed at the one enemy.) I find myself pleading with rose around me to teach rather than mock, to encourage rather than berate. I say things like, “No matter how angry you are with this person, remember, he is your brother. No matter how you might wish to do without him now, remember we’re all heading to the same heaven”.
Jesus knew we would disagree and have disputes and said to forgive 70 times 7 times. His paradigm was … if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.(Matthew 18:15). His aim was to regain fellowship, not at the cost of what is good and right by the word standards, but as much as lies within our power.
But, sadly we, I think, have “moved on” and we focus on correctness now. The preacher seems to no longer preach for us to be blessed and instructed but to have his understanding assessed in the quest to have the right to continue to preach to us lest we walk away. We seem to no longer listen for that one word from God that we so desperately crave and need. We accept the teaching based on its complete correctness. There is no more room for “honestly mistaken”, all we have now is “edifying” versus “false doctrine” with a sharp line down the middle.
At least, these are the things I see.
Usually, it takes a life time to witness such major paradigm shifts such that it was old elders who spoke of the “old days” when things were different and so on. But here I am, coming to the same conclusion, and I’m in no way qualified to be called old. All these changes have found their places in “dear diary” between 1987 and today 2016.
Jesus asked whether he would find faith on earth when he returns. I’m beginning to see why the one who holds the future would ask us such a question.
Here are lyrics to the song…
CITY ON THE HILL by Casting Crowns.
This has been a long one but let me appeal to you, if I may, walk around this city on the hill with your sword sheathed so you can embrace a brother with your breastplate of righteousness rather than cut him with your sword of truth. That way you would have him, and his sword, stand with you when the enemy brings the fight.