For many of us who feel they have awakened from the matrix of institutionalized religion, there appears to be a deeper issue that has been drowned out by our loud protests for authentic, back to the roots spirituality. Yes we’ve made it clear time and time again that it’s not religion but relationship, not buildings but people, not members but family, but I’ve come to realize that somewhere along the road to restoring “real”, “just like the early church”, “relevant” Christianity, we have ironically taken on a self-righteous legalistic attitude towards the very self-righteous legalist’s we preach against. Tim Keller’s book had me do a double take on a simple line “[Jesus] is not a pharisee about Pharisees…”.
The root of the issue is what I would call the one up factor. Once there is an asset one receives that produces a sense of supremacy, be it a piece of good or bad, new or old philosophy, revelation or method, there is great temptation to pier down at those who have yet to attain such knowledge. This new wave of organic, simple, relevant or emerging approaches to church and theology are revolutionary and important for the mission, but if it carries with it a sense of supremacy and pride to the more traditional or reform approaches, it actually surfaces the same problems of the past. What the world needs is not a better strategy for church growth or a radical new perspective on theology, the world needs a church of humility and grace. The kind of humility which imitates that of Christ who would be willing to die for another.
Philippians 2 shows Jesus as one who was perfect, flawless, supreme and all knowing (like many of us seem to think we are), but it goes further to point out that he gave up his position of authority to be a servant, surrendered his pure beauty for the appearance of man, and traded his right to command to be one who obeys. If you ask me, there is no instant productivity or immediate advancing of the kingdom with this kind of restraint. I guess that’s why the cross is so counter-intuitive. It is a picture that explains how weak is strong and how poor can be rich. It signifies to us all that humility is what works and that death is what lasts. Although I am completely behind the evolution (or rather deconstruction) of church methodology, I feel like we all, including myself, need to be aware of the common pride that creeps its way into any structure or skin with an open door.