Tuesday, July 22, 2008

False shepherds damning believers

I was furious.
Way. Beyond. Furious.

Remember that old Peter Paul & Mary song, "If I Had A Hammer?" Today my version would be

If I had a rocket-launcher, I'd launch it in the mornin'
Launch it in the evenin' - all over this land...

And the source of my ire? A local congregation of The Institutional Church. (Big surprise there, eh?) Yet another "faithful servant of the Gospel," spreading pain, suffering, and spiritual death - bayoneting the spiritually-wounded at every chance...

My brother-in-law has been raised in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. Since he and my sister have been married, they have gone long periods without attending church. When he's working, every other Sunday is a work day (starting at 4-5 AM), and for the last year and a half, my sister has been working Sundays until 7 AM, and coming home to sleep.

So yes, they could have attended more - but they are not without reasons.

And especially since the current pastor has come to The Church That Must Not Be Named (TCTMNBN), neither one of them have been especially comfortable attending that church. But Bro's sister is a church leader, and his family has been there for four generations. So they remain on the roster at TCTMNBN, and they go back periodically.

(This church, by the way, was the source of my ire at the "Free coffee - eternal life - Yes, membership DOES have its benefits" sign mentioned here...and here. But let's skip that, and get on to the source of my latest ire, shall we?)

Last Friday, Bro-in-Law stopped in to see his sister at The Church (she's principal at TCTMNBN School), and was collared by The Pastor. Once in The Pastor's office, TP began to tell Bro how he was going to burn in hell for not attending church.

(Yes, you heard me right.)

Repeatedly. And he continued to belittle my brother-in-law, saying that if he wasn't going to be attending church 75% of the time, The Pastor was going to yank his name from the membership roster, and he could burn in hell by himself.

Now, my brother-in-law is a believer. Admittedly, I'd bet most of his theology has come from Max Lucado and reading the Bible for himself (neither of which are bad things!), but I believe that he's a believer in Jesus Christ. But he's also "a traditional church-goer," which means that he believes in the power and the authority of the local pastor or minister.

Even when The Pastor's contradicting Scripture.
Even when he's being led astray by lies, from a supposedly-compassionate minister of the grace and love of Jesus Christ.

You see (just in case you were wondering...)
Salvation does not come from your church.
Or from attending services at that church, or any other.
It does not come from a pastor.
Or a tithing pledge.

It comes from belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Just to make sure, shall we open our pew bibles?...
Mark 16:15-16, NIV
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Romans 10:9-10, NIV
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Romans 8:1-2, NIV
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
Just wanted to get that out in the open, so we're singin' off the same sheet of music, folks...

Now, my brother-in-law wasn't doin' so hot to begin with, folks. He has tried to find new work for two years, on and off, with no success. His job (which he's faithfully shown up and given them his best for 30 years) booted him from full-time status to seasonal two years ago. As a result of that, and my sister's disability and loss of earnings potential, they are now seriously considering having to walk away from their condo - where they had hoped to retire or die. They are not, to put it mildly, firing on all cylinders - financially, emotionally, or spiritually.

And when this supposed shepherd of souls, this minister of the Gospel sees my brother-in-law for the first time in a while, all Pastor False-Teaching has to hand him is fire, brimstone, and burn-in-hell. Thanks a lot, Pastor.

Hemlock, anyone?
Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? (Matthew 7:9-10, NIV)

1 Timothy 1:7, NIV
They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.

Matthew 7:15-18 (New International Version)
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit."

They will know we are Christians by our love. (from the song of the same name)
Thank God, I know better than what this moron has been saying to my brother-in-law. I know that my salvation is not dependent on the institutions of man, or the judgment of any one man, but on my justification by grace through faith in Jesus.

But my brother-in-law is so crushed, so ego-deflated at depth, that he's not talking. Not to my sister. Or me. Or his sister, or anyone. He's taking this judgment full-in-the-face - and it's eating him alive.

I want to drive to The Church, walk in to The Pastor's study, and grab that illegitimate child of God by the shoulders. I want to shake him until his damn head falls off, while screaming "WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING, YOU STUPID SONOFABITCH?"

(you know, a calm, level-headed, turn-the-other-cheek Christian response....)

The fact is, I know what I should do - and I'll do it. But trust me - if you mess with one of mine, you have cut down more hay than you can put up in a month of Sundays. (Thank you, Tex Sample, for that wonderful line...)

Yes, I know - "vengeance is mine," sayeth the Lord. I know that. But I am also thinking of Abraham Lincoln, who was speaking to the mother of an only son, convicted of treason and scheduled to be hanged. President Lincoln recognized the need for mercy, and commuted the sentence. And yet he said, "...but I wish we could give him just a little bit o' hangin'..."

Me too, Abe. Me too.
This was our course: We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick. Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick too. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, "This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done."

We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn't treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful. We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.
(Alcoholics Anonymous, page 65-66)
This is what I heard from some friends tonight, and this is what I'm workin' on. It's a lot better than the plan I could come up with...

If you're the praying type, prayers for healing, restoration and endurance for Jeff and Sue would be a blessing...


hennhouse said...

Yep. Praying.

And thank you for articulating some of the things I've been struggling with...

You are a blessing.

Cristi said...

Praying for all involved. What a horrible thing to tell someone.

Michael said...

A seminarian who used to come to me for spiritual direction once described a scene with a confessor that ran along lines similar to what your brother-in-law ran into. The seminarian put up with the ranting priest for about a minute, and then calmly told him, "Father, I do not consider this an encounter with the mercy of God" and got up and walked out.

I think that young man was well on the way to becoming a fine minister to God's people.

Black Pete said...

Your brother-in-law may need Fundamentalists Anonymous and/or some sort of spiritual counselling with a human, not with the creature currently occupying the Nameless Church pulpit.

Or, he may need sanctuary--I do not use that term lightly--another denomination, another spiritual home.

Our denomination has thousands of former conservative Christians in it because of the kind of encounters your brother-in-law has had.

If he were in Canada, he'd be most welcome.

Praying, Steve man.

Im A Foto Nut said...

Steve FYI here is a link to the new HP trailer. I was only able to get the Quick Time one to work correctly.


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Keith Brenton said...

Why can't such folk form their own wacky religions and preach 75% attendance at the Church of What I Want to Believe (COWIWTB) or an eternity in Cleveland picking up trash by the Cuyahoga with their teeth?