Thursday, May 31, 2012
A brother from Harlem once said to me, "You know you can take a man out the Ghetto but that doesn't mean you have taken the ghetto out of the man."
It is hard to let the Lord lay the ax to the root of disappointment, regret or even bitterness. On our christian journey we may change our direction, our orientation, we may even leave the system and eschew performance based religion but that doesn't mean that we have been set free from the effects of performance based Christianity and top down institutionalization. Religion, albeit Christian religion, appeals to our human nature, - to our desire for security, for acceptance, predictability, community, significance, belonging. fellowship, position and yes even power! Though belonging may bring with it a sense of security it is a false sense of security and a subtle seduction to which so many have succumbed.
Like the Israelites who were led out of Egypt but still had Egypt IN them...many of us, having left 'organized religion" still carried the 'system" with us and within us!! True freedom is more than being set free from the dominion of the "world" system!
The lure of what I call pay for performance Christianity is strong. I have to admit, that having begun in the spirit, I too "gave in" to being one with that system which masquerades as Christ. Like Esau, I traded my birthright as a true child of God, for a bowl of porridge which satisfied my natural appetite but did not truly fulfill - (make me full from within). I must admit that although I was delivered out from the gospel Ghetto...for many years the ghetto mentality & pseudo-spiritually was IN me. Like the Israelite, having crossed over Jordan, shouting "hallelujah I'm free" I suddenly found myself in a spiritual wilderness...often alone and without direction. It was in this wilderness that God began to free me from that which bound me from within. It was in the wilderness that I learned that righteousness is not in religion, or doing good things, in right beliefs. commandment keeping or in the security of the herd and following men, but only in Jesus Christ and total dependence on him. It was in the wilderness of Sin that I learned that righteousness was total dependence on Him and that sin is independence from him. Sin,I learned lay in self. The blessing of the wilderness was that in the wilderness I ran out of steam and found myself devoid of necessary resources both mental and spiritual. It was there I came to the end of myself! It was also there that I finally found - once again - and oasis for the thirsty soul. I found again - my first love and my life -Jesus the Christ.
For a long time I blamed my circumstances, my lack of direction, my spiritual dryness, my dissatisfaction and my unhappiness on "the church" - my Egyptian task master.
True freedom, however, did not come until there came a realization that my circumstances were not the fault of the church or some religious personage or system. A light finally went on and I saw S in sin stood for SELF ! ~ Once agian I came face to face with the truth of the words of POGO:
"We have seen the enemy and it is US."
I saw that I was a victim of my own choices. No one forced or coerced me to believe. No one deceived me - it was self-deception that was the enemy. No one took power from me. No one forced me to follow them or to listen to their words from the Lord. I made choices. I chose to listen to men, I chose to believe what others taught and to give myself - my trust and loyalty to them and to that religious system. I chose to follow men and the teachings of men. I chose to be and see myself as a victim. The good thing about victimization, I discovered, is that you get to blame someone or something else for your situation. And so, for a season, I played the blame game. It was all about them and what they did to me. For a time I reveled in it. Then, suddenly or perhaps finally, I was convicted that I had not sought the Lord. I had not been more noble and studied the scriptures to see truth. I had taken, as I had so many times in my life, the path of least resistance - the easy way out, rather than the road less traveled.
When I acknowledged my sin to God, my sin of sloth and laziness and of choosing to follow men rather than Him, He began the marvelous process of freeing me from all the self imposed chains of theological nonsense and religious performance. God began a marvelous work of restoration. Though this reconstruction and restoration still continues, I have never felt more free - free to love even those that I formerly blamed for my bondage and my unfruitful "Christian" life.
And again I remember the truth according to Pogo:
"We have met the enemy and it is us!’
I also remember the words of Christ:
"Forgive them Father for they know not what they do!"