Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Reading–A Fellowship of Differents #6

41EvRIDnBvL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_I am continuing to read through Scot McKnight’s new book A Fellowship of Differents: Showing The World God’s Design for Life Together. In this book McKnight makes the point that the church is not and should not be a homogenous group of same-thinking people who are unified because they really have no differences. Instead the church shows the radical change made in our lives by the Spirit, as people from different cultural, ethnic, economic, and social backgrounds come together in unity that includes al the human variegated diversity. The value that binds this diverse group together is God’s love, which McKnight defines as a rugged commitment to be with you, to be for you and to walk toward God together with you. The church is, thus, a place where we grow together into God’s image (God’s image in humans involves relationship with one another since God is Trinity) and help each other move away from sin to what God made us to be. I am going through the book one section at a time every Sunday, posting some quotes on my Facebook page and a summary here on my blog. I welcome comments on my Facebook page. Quotes from the book are in blue.

The next, section of the book is on Holiness. Chapter 11 defines Holiness as Devotion to God. McKnight begins the chapter by saying, “The best way to ruin holiness is to turn it into a list of Don’ts.” Holiness is often defined as being “separated,” and this tends to get narrowed to “separation from sin.” The problem with this definition is that it is incomplete. The reason we separate from sin is because of devotion to God and relationship with Him. The way to holiness is not through human self-control but from being in the presence of God and allowing him to work in us. Then we do the “Do’s” and avoid the “Don’t’s” in the power of the Spirit.

Holiness is the work of God in us. So if we want our church to become holy, we need to learn to spend time in God’s presence, basking in the light of his holiness. 119

He wants those churches to be holy, but he knows that God’s work in them will lead them away from sins and toward the greatest virtues running through the Roman Empire — love, justice, peace, compassion, and forgiveness. 121

Chapter 12 deals with an area we often first think of when we talk about holiness, Sexual Bodies in a Church. McKnight begins the chapter by discussing the background in Roman culture to Paul’s instructions about sexuality. 1st century Roman culture (think Corinth) was probably more sexually indulgent than even our modern Western culture. Then and now, “Sexual redemption, holiness, and purity are part of the ongoing church life both then (and today).” Paul’s mission was “counter-cultural” in that what the Gentile Christians did in the past was forgiven (vs. Jewish view) and that sexual relations were designed by God for man and wife (contra Roman culture). McKnight applies this to people with same-sex attraction by calling the church to the same rugged commitment to grow together with them, “in holiness, love, and righteousness together.” We must realize that sanctification is a process and be “a community marked by the transparency of a loving commitment to one another and pursuing holiness together in a way we all flee sexual temptations.” He calls for a 3rd way that calls for neither rejection, nor toleration but “transformation toward redemption. It knows that it may wait until the kingdom for the kind of liberation redemption brings. The Third Way also believes the context for this redemption is the local fellowship, the church.”

Paul’s holiness mission, then, is to rescue notorious Roman sinners from the sinful life of the Roman world and to establish them in a life of sexual holiness among God’s new people, the church… Paul’s language here about what is “natural” is as wide as it can get: he sees all same-sex sexual relations as outside the divine, created order and inconsistent with life “in Christ.”  128

If we are called to love one another, we are called to be “with” gays and lesbians (this means physical presence over time), and we are called to be “for” in the sense that these folks will know they are loved, and we are summoned to walk with gays and lesbians toward the kingdom of God and toward sexual holiness. 130

Finally, chapter 13 emphasizes the importance of seeing Salvation as Process. We need to stop looking at salvation as a “one-and-done event but as “a story” of a “a mini-exodus leading God’s people to liberation.” Our exodus is from the domination of the kingdom of darkness and from death and from a life of sin into God’s kingdom (which for now is his church) and a life of devotion to God. But just as it took the Israelites a long time to enter the promised land, it will also be a long process for us to fully realize and live in our liberation. Thus, we need that rugged commitment to love as we move forward, fail, confess, and move forward again toward devotion to God.

At the heart of the apostle’s mission is God’s mission to rescue both Gentiles and Jews, males and females, slaves and the free — and the mini-exodus, or personal-exodus, for each leads them into a kind of “promised land” called the church. The church is a fellowship of liberated differents, a community that has gone through a mini-exodus designed to liberate its people. 138

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