There are many different ways in which to pray. Many of us kneel by our bed, sometimes we just close our eyes and lower our heads and pray while sitting. And sometimes we also spontaneously pray out loud, regardless of where we are. The method we use doesn’t really matter, it’s not the external appearance or form that is important, it’s what is taking place within us that matters. I’ll come back to this momentarily.
Did you ever notice how many times Jesus had to correct the 12 disciples? How their expectations didn’t seem to meet up with His? Remember how they wanted the little children not to bother Jesus (Matthew 19:14 NIV)? Remember how the disciples encountered another disciple who was not of their group casting out demons in Jesus’ name and how they forbid him to do so but Jesus told them not to (Luke 9:49-50 NIV)? Remember when Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well and the disciples were surprised that He was talking to a woman (John 4:27 NIV)?
One response could be, well these events all took place before Pentecost and the disciples hadn’t received the gift of the Holy Spirit yet so their understanding was incomplete. That’s definitely a possibility but what about when the Apostle Paul had to correct the Apostle Peter for the manner in which he was associating with the Jewish Christians and avoiding contact with the Gentile Christians as recorded in Galatians 2:11-14 NIV?
Sometimes, our expectations of others, both of those outside of the Church and also of those within the Church, form such a high wall of expectation that what we end up doing is painting ourselves into a corner where the picture we present, i.e., our perception of how things ought to be, supersedes all others and those who do not meet our perceived expectations, obviously fall short and therefore can’t possibly be part of the body of Christ. To be candid with you, I deplore that mentality, when I see it in others and when I see it in myself.
I am NOT talking about doctrinal heresies.
What I AM talking about is pious perfectionism.
And what is pious perfectionism you ask? Well I can tell you what I think it is and I may be wrong, and if you think I am, please feel free to correct me. In my opinion, that’s where one’s standard for the state of the Church is so elevated that one can no longer tolerate attending Church because the “vast majority” of the Church is all corrupt.
Really. Every single Church, without exception, in your local area. My understanding is that there are no perfect Churches because there are no perfect people. My understanding is that if you want to find a Church where the Gospel is preached and the people are in different stages of walking with Christ, you can usually find one.
Does the Bible advocate NOT attending Church or the assembling of ourselves together? You and I both know that it doesn’t. Been hurt by Church members in the past? Who hasn’t? What about forgiveness? What about fostering love for one another? They don’t have your level of scriptural understanding? You might want to focus on self pride for a while and those scripture verses that tell us to think of others more than ourselves.
And then you have those who’s understanding of celebrating “Christmas” or “Easter” is so encrusted in pagan origins that they look down on any who do find “Christmas” or “Easter” a source of joy and celebration. Are there scriptures that address this? Yes there are. Does the scripture tell us that we should look down on those who do celebrate or hold a day as special? You know it doesn’t.
How about the government? Does the Bible address that? Yes it does. Perhaps the times have changed and they also are all now corrupt. Really. Every single official, at all levels, within all parties, without exception? Is there corruption? Everyone knows there is, there is now and there was corruption during Caesars rule of the Roman Empire when Paul advocated to Timothy what we should do. But the pious perfectionist’s understanding of the coming world order is more important than the scriptures guidance. My understanding is that Jesus told us to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to render unto God what is God’s. I may not agree with all that the government does but I am to show respect to the government and pray for all those who are in authority. There is no perfect government because there are no perfect people. There’s a pattern there if you look for it.
We should know there are also a number of scriptures that advocate how we should accommodate those who are weaker in faith. We also should know that when anyone becomes overly critical of others, especially when the “vast majority” is frequently referred to, something is wrong. At the onset of this post I mentioned about the different methods of praying and what is important is not the external but what is taking place internally. There is only one reality that I am aware of that is aware of what is going on in someone else and that reality is God. If grace has taught me anything, it is that I am a sinner and that any changes that have taken place in me up to this point in time, and there have been many, have very little to do with me and much to do with what God has done in me. If we lose sight of that, if we don’t earnestly take that to heart, the very heart of the Gospel of Christ is missed.
Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
I don’t mean to be harsh or hurt anyone. And if I have offended anyone, please know that has not or is not my intention. It grieves me to see pious perfectionism continually put forward as the standard that we must all meet. Is it our goal? Yes it is. Should we lose sight of it, no we should not, but few if any, have reached it yet, myself included. Did God love us any less, when we began our journey, than He does now? I think not. If we fail to see the learning stages that we went through, in others, we’re missing the point.
John 13:34 NIV “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
We are to meet people where they are, be they Christian or non-Christian, worldly or non-worldly and share with them the love of God as personified in Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God. That’s the mission that Jesus gave us.
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!