“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: ‘We played the flute for you and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.'”- Matthew 11:17 “Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever…What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” –Ecclesiastes 1:4,9 Pride is as alive as it ever was, and it is so very seductive. No one is beyond its grasp. Pride whispers sweetly in our ears until we are lulled into believing we have the absolute right to demand the church be molded into our image, brothers and sisters in Christ bend to our personal tastes and preferences, and Christ himself be whittled down into a comfortable pocket guide for living. No one is exempt and no moment in time is safe from the siren call of pride and the assertion of the will. Each one of us is as prone as the other to fall into the trap. I will preface a link to the recent article by Rachel Held Evans by saying the words and specifics may vary, but the idea is not new. Nothing is new under the sun. We all at one time or another have desired to tailor God, His Word, and His purposes to our will. Evans addresses the evangelical church, and its perceived failure to hold captive the attention and loyalty of so-called millenials. The desire to cast a wider net is understandable, but some of the ideas represented here seem to be rooted in the desire to have a sovereignty of self, to base our criticisms of institutions on our own authority, not the authority of scripture. “It is clear,” Eugene Peterson writes urgently in Eat This Book, “that we live in an age in which the authority of Scripture in our lives has been replaced by the authority of the self: we are encouraged on all sides to take charge of our lives and use our own experience as the authoritative text by which we live.” Not only this, but “we are in the odd and embarrassing position of being a church in which many among us believe ardently in the authority of the Bible, but, instead of submitting to it, use it apply it, take charge of it endlessly, using our own experience as the authority for how and where and when we will use it.” We can slide so easily into the habit of self-appointed authority with God’s word, with His people, and, (this should cause us to shudder), with God Himself. It is so tempting to say we want a big God with power and glory and majesty, but in the same breath want to manage the Almighty and His work on earth. We want the great King to be safe. But we are to be admonished in this kind of thinking, just like the character of Susan in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe: “Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King.” This foolish desire to waltz into God’s house and lay out a list of demands has surely been a problem since the time of the writing of Ecclesiastes, prompting these words: “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know what they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth. So let you words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1-3) Let our words be few. And let those words be appropriately humble. Let us remember, no matter what generation we are in, that we do not call the shots. It may be that it is more tempting for the generations now coming of age to feel entitled than previous generations. (Though I doubt it. Nothing is new under the sun). It also may be that there have been some misguided attempts by various churches to cater to one group or another, motivated by fear of losing numbers. Haven’t we been warned though, that “the love of most will grow cold?” (Matthew 24:11) I believe a church’s effectiveness in pursuing and carrying out the will of God does not lie in popularity but in holding fast to His Word, and in effectively using those who will be counted present and available. The question, then, isn’t what is the church to me, but what kind of instrument am I in the church? What do I bring? How can I humbly serve, minister to, love, console, rejoice with, and walk alongside my brothers and sisters? How can I be hands and feet to those outside the walls of my church and beyond the boundaries of my comfort? This is to walk in the feet of Christ. This is, again in the words of Eugene Peterson, “liv[ing] these Holy Scriptures from the inside out, instead of using them for our sincere and devout but still self-sovereign purposes.” This is the antidote to pride. So let our words be few. Let our demands be silenced. Let our condescension and criticisms be muted and our actions speak volumes. And let our actions not just show that we love our neighbor, as important as that is. Let them show that we submit to the will of the Father, and follow the first and greatest commandment, which, if we truly take Christ at His word, is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37-38) Let our words be few. Let our awe be genuine. Let us humbly acknowledge that God is God and His Will will be done, whether we choose to be a part of it or not.
- How Not To Speak for a Generation: Rachel Held Evans on Millennials Leaving the Church (pietistschoolman.com)
- Ecclesiastes 8. Obey authorities for God’s sake. (bummyla.wordpress.com)