Sunday, 11 May 2003

I was mopping the bathroom floor yesterday and thinking about our behavior as Christians, as Episcopalians, as seminarians and soon to be priests, and Arianism and Apollinarianism. I've been having a harder time jibing behavior according to the world's standard (which often infiltrates the Church within cultures) and according to what I've been accustomed to assume is Christian behavior. I know I bring all kinds of stuff into this whole issue by coming from a Holiness background. I also know that the increasing tendencies of Fundamentalists and Evangelicals to base their "holiness" on Legalistic Righteousness, despite what they claim theologically - when the rubber-hits-the-road with the people sitting in the pews, justifying their worth and their level of commitment to God to their fellow self-righteous pew-siters is based on what they do and don't do. Yet, it seems that many within the Episcopal Church, perhaps the Catholic side of the Church, perhaps just mainline Protestant denominations, seem to go to the other extreme by not focusing on behavior at all. "No, our situation with God is not based on behavior, but based on the finished work of Jesus Christ." Yes, but scripture also calls us to be holy, even as God is holy. The scripture calls us to be an example to a lost world of what it means to be people living under grace and within God. If our lives look, in terms of behavior, just like the lives of anyone else in our culture - and not just because of behavior, but attitudes that allow us to justify doing just about anything - then were is the witness to the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ. If when deciding to look into God all that changes is our pre-suppositions (there is a god as opposed to there not being a god) or only our intellectual attitude changes, then how is that compelling to the majority of people in the world. If by the witness of our lives, whether we like it or not being judged by our behavior, is no different that the average non-Christian, then something is wrong.

I realize that my behavior, being in a relationship with another male, is ruthlessly judged by others, especially Christians, to be the utmost in non-Christian behavior. I realize that the majority of Christendom views my relationship as antithetical to being a Christian, and not only that, but dangerous to society in general. In that realization, I cannot judge another person's relationship with God based on behavior alone, as the majority of Fundamentalists/Evangelicals tend to do. (Yet, were is the fruit of the Christian life that God says will be present in those who trust in Him?) It isn't a matter of, "justify yourself to me in your claim to be a Christian," but "how is your behavior affecting the cause of Christ as an example of the new-life, of freedom, of joy, or of otherness that is living within the Kingdom of God rather than the Kingdom of this World - life rather than death?" We stand or fall before our God, and He alone is our judge. Where is our responsibility?

Must of this revolves around the amount of alcohol being consumed by my fellow seminarians. I don't believe there is a problem with enjoying an alcoholic drink, but I do think there is a problem with enjoying being drunk and every time there is a party, or whatever, there is an intent to drink and be drunk. The parties I have been to have a ton of alcohol, but even though every party, by seminary rules, is supposed to have "attractive alternative beverages," that just doesn't happen too well. I think about all the guys who stream into the seminary on Friday nights to attend the AA meetings. I would be afraid for any of them to attend any of the parties I have been to at this place. Is that a justice issue? That is a shame! What kind of witness are we? They, who have confronted their problems, who understand enslavement, who understand a new-life, can they look at us and see our behavior and wonder why those who are to be an example are doing the very things that got them into so much trouble. Where is the claim to new-life as demonstrated by we seminarians? Where is the difference between the people of God and the people without God? Where is the demonstration of the regenerate life? Do those guys see the divine within us or do they see a bunch of hypocrites? Are our lives lived those God would desire of us, and where is our desire to love God with all our being and allowing God to change us into the image of Christ daily for a dying and desperate world? Where is the consistency, not according to what we want to do or what we think we can get away with, but according to what God expects of us or the way the world judges us as those who call them to a new and different life? God grants us new life - freedom. Are we living anywhere near that new life?

So, I think we as Episcopalians, and Catholic (by that I don't mean just Roman), Christians tend to down play the divine within us and overemphasis our humanness. I think there is a tendency towards Arianism, not in the sense that we deny the divinity of Christ, but that we deny the divinity (Holy Spirit) within us when we decide to follow Christ. Seeing ourselves as "just human" will allow for all kinds of justifications of behaviors - whether drinking to much or adultery or pedophilia - after all, they are just all emotional and psychological illnesses, right? When we enter the new-life, not at baptism for those believing in infant baptism, but when we decide to live within that new life, we are no longer just human. Therefore, the standards of being just human are no longer with us. We live a new life in a new kingdom. Where is our example? Is there an honest difference in our lives? Have we discovered that undiscovered country that is the fullness of Jesus Christ, or are we just wading in a pool - one foot in the world and one foot in the Kingdom of God? We are human-arianists, and I think we live far below our potential as members of Christ - dead, but now resurrected into new life - according to the promises of God.

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