split apart

The deepest divisions among the people of God in our nation have nothing to do with denominations. They have nothing to do with political loyalties. No - the deepest divisions cut through the life of individuals.

Take the time to listen to Christians talk. I do this all the time. Let me tell you what I hear. I hear a mind vs heart division. People love to go on and on about 'head knowledge' and 'heart knowledge', seeing them as two different things. I hear a theory vs practice division. A Placemakers' van caught my eye the other day. 'Know How, Can Do' was splashed across the side. That sounds so practical. I suspect a van with 'Know What, Understand Why' wouldn't market a company very well. Theory sounds so boring. I hear a public vs private division. On a Sunday or being in worship brings out a certain conversation and a certain behaviour in people, while living on a Monday and being at work ... well, it can all sound and look so different.

Divided talk like this is not new. For example, centuries ago Philosopher Plato talked about a body vs soul division, the material was separated from the spiritual. And what is it that happens next with this split? Well - one bit becomes a good bit and the other bit becomes a bad bit. On one side is where you find God living - in Plato's case the soul and the spiritual - and on the other side you find God evacuating - in this case the body and the material. Have you ever wondered why Christians can be so hamstrung when it comes to confronting pornography or leading the response to an ecological crisis? There are experts who trace it all the way back to Plato. We are sailing in his bad air. What else can you expect to happen when you allow the body and the material to be seen as a bad bit from which God has evacuated?

And when we come back to these divisions I hear around the place - the mind:heart, the theory:practice, the public:private - nothing much has changed. There tends to be a good bit and a bad bit. And a bit that God inhabits and a bit that God evacuates. Our faith and our churches thrive in the private:practical:heart world. Our faith and our churches get a bit lost in the mind:theory:public world - in fact, it is often argued that this is where faith shrivels and dies so stay away! [cf Lesslie Newbigin: "the church has secured a continuing place, at the cost of surrendering the crucial field."]

Now there is one problem with this. The Bible knows nothing of this nonsense. And that means that God ain't too chuffed with it either.

Mind vs heart? When Jesus drew alongside two heavy-hearted disciples on the road to Emmaus he ministered to their minds, to their understanding of Scripture, and in a matter of minutes despairing hearts became burning hearts. Dividing head knowledge from heart knowledge is not the way forward.

Theory vs practice? When Paul sat down to write Ephesians he did not start with chapter 4. When he sat down to write Romans he did not start with chapter 12. Last time I looked he establishes the theory first. His van had 'Know What, Understand Why' splashed across the bonnet and 'Know How, Can Do' splashed across the boot.

Public vs Private? When a Joseph or a Daniel or an Esther left home on a Monday morning to go to work they did not park their impeccable private worlds with their chariots. They went in and lived them in full view of Pharoah and Xerxes and Nebuchadnezzar and did so with integrity and did so with influence. They didn't ask themselves "gee, how can I be relevant?". They just refused to divide up their lives and therein lay their relevance.

I'd go one step further with all of this ... I would argue with all my being and for as long as God gives me breath that the central reason for the church's ineffectiveness as it participates in the mission of God in this land lies with deep divisions like these ones. We are struggling not because of too much mind, too much theory, too much public - but too little of the finest variety.

nice chatting

Paul Windsor

Comments

Mark Maffey said…
The Apostle Paul in Phillipians 4 provides us with an insight into the importance of having our hearts and minds Guarded,and is it pains I believe to point us to where are focus is, what are attitudes, lifestyle should reflect. One of my reflections on Phillipians 4: 4-7 is this:
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice!
Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
Come before your Lord and worship him in one accord, with one voice
Let your lives reveal the character of God, on his word stand
Let your lives reflect Christ, his love, abide in him it’s the only choice
Come before your Lord with singing, form a heavenly band

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication,
With thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God
Look to God not just a little, but in all things, have a strong application
Learn to pray to him through his word, knowing what is right and good
God calls you to be earnest, thankful, he will give you a heavenly indication
Trust in your God, he is faithful in all things, your prayers will be heard

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding
Will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus
His promise to us, my peace I give you, don’t of it be uncomprehending
He is the Good Shepherd who restores the soul and frees us
He guides and leads us; trust in him, it is you he is befriending
Have faith in him the one who intercedes for us is Christ Jesus

Our lives need to reflect Jesus, and our first port of call in the midst of the challenges we face in life should be to know what it is to be thankful to God for what we do have, and know what it is to get on our knees and pray before him, it is as we take action that God is enabled to help, guide and guard us...

Paul goes on to say that we are to FIX our minds on what is noble, true. How hard that is when we are constantly bombarded with messages from this world that are as far from noble and true as we could possibly get. Are we prepared to be aliens and strangers, not conformed to this world. Where our minds are, there are hearts will be also..

A reflection on Phillipians 4:8-13

And now, dear brothers and sisters let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts
On what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable.
We live in a world which offer us many alternative views, views that can be absorbed and caught
It’s easy to lose focus on that which is good, when the alternative seems plausible and reasonable
When we view the liberalisation and watering down of what we hold true, it is easy to be tense and taut
We are called to be salt and light to a lost world, in order to do this we need to be by God seasonable
Open to our God, focused upon his will, his ways, he calls upon us to seek him in his courts
To enter his courts with praise, to seek him will he may be found, that is unquestionable

Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise .Keep putting into practice all you learned
From me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.
As we look to God’s word we can learn from the example of Paul, God’s intentions can be discerned
Paul whilst saved by grace, demonstrated his faith, we do well to keep this in view
Like Paul can we say that we no longer live, but Christ lives in us, in him are we confirmed?
Choose this day whom you will serve, know this in all things God will bring you thru.

How grateful I am, and how I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again.
I know you have always been concerned for me, but for a while you didn't have the chance to help me.
Paul knew the cost of following Christ, from Damascus where for him it all began
He knew that whatever his circumstances that he was called to do all for the Glory of God you see
Yet he also knew that no man is an Island and he needed all the support he could gain
Our God who has began a good work in us will take it to completion in the day of Jesus, trust and see

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little.
I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living
Can we like Paul apprehend that God is aware of all our needs, and knows them every jot and tittle?
Paul knew that by himself he could do nothing, but with the Spirit he and church were thriving
At the end of the day for Paul nothing else mattered than to live for Christ in every way not a little
As we seek and look to the author and perfector of our faith we like Paul, can be in Christ living

In every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.
For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.
Paul didn’t rely on his own understanding; in God he put his trust, wholly not a little
He went through storms, faced all sorts of danger, yet his faith in God did not recede
For us the challenge is will our anchor hold in the storms of life, it’s no riddle
If we like Paul can say I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, we will be free indeed

The Apostle Paul gives us much to ponder, are we able to be happy in all circumstances, for richer for poorer, for better or worse, in all circumstances
Hi, Paul.

Another divide I often come across is 'Earth vs. Heaven'. So often people think Earth is bad - it will all fade away, so the only thing worth anything is heaven. This thinking has lead some Christians to be among the least interested in environmental responsibility.
I read a fascinating linguistic study (Stephen Pattemore, 2006) on the English translations of the phrase used in 2 Peter 3, about the earth being 'burned up'. Such literal translations (missing the figurative intent of the original, which hints at judgement as in Babylonian times) have birthed a 'who cares, then?' attitude in modern Christians.
But let's not forget other verses like Rev 11:17-18 where God will 'destroy those who destroy the earth'.
It is NOT Biblical that the earth is bad and only Heaven is any good.
God's creation is GOOD, and we are stewards of it.

Nice chatting!
Paul said…
I like to collect 'splits' and I've never really thought of earth vs heaven quite so bluntly ... it reminds me of the old dualism of the temporal vs the eternal which has combined with the body vs the soul one to do a lot of damage over the centuries.

Of a different order, the other split that I find over-stated is being vs doing. "We need to stop doing and just 'be' for a bit." WOW - really? Where is the biblical justification for splitting those two apart? Isn't the mission of God struggling around the world because of too much 'being' and too little 'doing'? Focusing just on 'being' seems to be a luxury for the comfortable ...

Maybe I have it wrong!
Nah, you haven't got it wrong - We don't know who we are until we see what we do (by their fruits you will know them).
HOWEVER, sometimes it's a necessary step for us to stop "doing" our business, and learn to reflect. Go deeper. Don't just 'do' coz you think it's a good idea.
Reflection & action go hand in hand. Either one without the other becomes lopsided and shallow.
dale said…
That was beautiful stuff Paul.

Savoury AND Sweet... ;)

-d-

p.s. - Does Myk H. know you are quoting someone like Newbigin (BTW, from what little I've seen of hers, she seems quite brilliant!)?
dale said…
so little... it seems, that I thought 'Lesslie' was a 'she'...

Ouch... that's embarrassing!

:)

-d-

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