Sunday, June 24, 2012

Intimacy: A Post Mortem

The word intimacy stems from the Latin intimus; to make something known to someone else. Another derivation is the verb 'intimate,' which originally meant "to notify." In its original meaning, in other words, intimacy did NOT mean emotional closeness but the willingness to pass on honest information.

There has been something churning inside me and it is time to get it out. I will try to say it as plainly as I can. What I am feeling is a deep sadness, a grieving and a deep sense of loss!

What I sense is that it is time we prepare to mourn the death of intimacy.

In our post-modern world of electronic wizardry and gadgetry - of superficial social media - of texts and tweets - we find words like intimacy, vulnerability, transparency, openness, and heart to heart communication forgotten and almost eliminated from the English language. What is true in Western society at large is also true within the redeemed community - the church of Jesus Christ.

Convinced that "communication is the life blood of relationship" my diagnosis is that the body of Christ is suffering from acute spiritual anemia. She is weak, almost lifeless and lacking in divine energy. She is badly in need of a transfusion!

The church - the body of Christ, is the visible earth bound expression or extension of the life and order of heaven. She is, by nature, first incarnational and then relational! This corporate redeemed community, this community of care and concern, this Ekklesia of God is made up of brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a living breathing entity - a family!

This church of which I speak is NOT an organization but an organism.

She is vibrant - radiant - full of life and purpose for she is animated by the very life of God! She is His spiritual house, His temple, His dwelling place and His "church" - which is built of living stones!

Alas, multitudes of those who proudly wear the label "Christian" have settled for much less than divine life. Many have literally traded their birthright as sons and daughters of the most high for a superficial form of godliness; for a set of precepts; for a belief/value system; or for a new religious set of do's and dont's. The incarnational has been usurped by the institutional.

Instead of relation we have chosen religion!

Though they sound similar, they are in no way the same!

The origin of Religion

The English word religion has an interesting etymology. Most linguistic scholars believe that religion is derived from the Latin re (an emphatic) + ligare (meaning 'to bind'). Hence, the literal meaning of the word religion is "to bind tightly or “to bind fast” meaning “to place an obligation upon.” This is the very nature of religion. It is indeed obligatory. Religion binds a person or group to a set of precepts, to a system of prescribed beliefs, creeds and/or doctrines - too a particular intellectual or theological understanding of holy writ - to certain required religious actions or behaviors (e.g. church attendance, prayer, fasting or alms-giving) - to a moral code, or to certain ceremonial observances (special holy days, seasons, feasts and festivals). Most of all, religion binds one to a set of do's and don'ts or thou shalts and thou shalt nots!

A second but not as widely accepted origin of the English word religion,  is the Latin religiens - meaning "a particular system of faith."  Today, this is the most commonly understood meaning of religion.

A religion is simply a system of faith or belief.

A system is defined as an organized set of interrelated ideas or principles. The key word is organized. It is from the word organize that we derive the word organization. Most churches begin defining the nature of the organization with a corporate charter or bylaws detailing the nature of the organization.  This document with a statement of faith - We believe...  This document enumerates their core beliefs and/or values and practices.   A phrase often included in many church statements of faith or purpose and goes something like this:  The local church is a group of believers organized for the purpose or purposes of (e.g. evangelism. equipping god's people through preaching and teaching sound doctrine, to promote  fellowship, and ... (you may fill in the blanks with your favorite spiritual terminology).  the key phrase is "Organized for the purpose of!"

So there you have it.  Much like the American corporation, the 'church' sees itself as a group people or  a congregation possessing common beliefs and values and which is organized for a purpose, albeit a divine purpose.  Hence we have, The Purpose Driven Church!

Throughout history reformers have set about to re-engineer, re-organize, reinvent, revitalize and reform this 'corporate' community - the church. The modern day seeker friendly movement and the emergent movement are two recent examples. The goal of many of these movements is to make the church more relevant, more acceptable, more responsive or more palatable to the tastes of the modern generation.  My father used to call this 'dressing it up' or putting a new suit on the old man instead of putting a new man in the suit:  doing whatever suits us.

In other words, what we are really saying is that what we need is not a new driver but a shiny new car. What we need is NOT the life of God transmitted by the Spirit and incarnated within the redeemed community but a better leaner more attractive and dynamic organization. Instead of a new corporate man we seek a new Christianized corporate paradigm - a culturally and more socially relevant institution.  What is required is what is desired: - not a radical transformation but a cool hip modern Jesus with whom we can identify because He is more like us!

This modern day market place Christian paradigm is best expressed by the sign on the office wall of one very successful pastor. The Sign reads:

What Is Your Product?
Who is Your customer?

The church that Jesus is building however, is NOT an organization with a mission. Christianity is NOT just another religion ABOUT Jesus but a relationship WITH Jesus! Jesus Christ is NOT just another prophet, sage, philosopher, teacher, rabbi, wise man or spiritual visionary or celestial corporate CEO.    He did NOT come to open a window of enlightenment or to teach us about the ways to God.  He was NOT some spiritual guru who came to teach us the deeper truths about God.

He WAS God!
He IS God.

As mind blowing as it may seem, Jesus said of himself:

I AM the door!
I AM the way!
I AM the truth!
I AM the life!
No man comes to the Father but by Me!"

Jesus did NOT come to show or teach us some new way of doing church...


1 comment:

  1. Doesn't get much better than this George, except perhaps leaving out the "re" part of your wrap up on religion - "re-bind." Jesus came to set the captives free, and the religious come to re-bind the free ones. Let us stand fast therefore in the liberty where with Christ has set us free..." :-)

    I Love You! Thats both an honest communication, and a notification, not quite as intimate as I would like to be, but at the moment you aren't close enough to kiss! :-)


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