Thursday, December 1, 2011

Factions - are they necessary?

I'm inherently a person to question what someone is saying, although it might offend, or, even make them think that I'm something that I'm not.  So, when a brother comes to the table with a certain mindset about the Scriptures, I'm bound to question.

Such was the case the other night. Someone, in our care group, wanted to discuss a passage in 1 Cor. 11:19, "for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized."  If you take the verse before that, Paul is talking about "divisions" - Greek schismata that are among the believers there in Corinth.  The factions are actually heresy's that are within the church, so it is a serious passage, one not to be glossed over for sure.

But paramount to every scripture is context that would frame what Paul says correctly, for how they would understand it and how we should understand it.  I think what disturbs me is when people get so over hyped about their understanding of what is said that it can lead to celebrating the very thing that breaks God's heart, namely - His glory being diminished through heresy.

Factions will exist within any church, that is for sure, we need to reveal our hearts in humble awareness of this w/o a terseness that would betray what Paul would say two chapters later, that the "Way of Love" is the best way.  See, that is what Jesus prayed in the Garden when he was begging the Father to "take this cup from Me."  His prayer was that we would be united, not around factions or how they were caused and what we did to not cause it or expose it, but around a bloody cross.

That is what bothers me at times, about myself as well as others, the idea that I like factions, I like to tear down the heresies and make sure that everyone knows that I know what I'm talking about but that is the opposite of the message that Paul was giving to the Corinthians, he was saying, in effect, don't be molded in that way.  It wasn't a surprise to Paul because Paul was gifted in the language of rhetoric or sarcasm, see chapter 5, " are arrogant" particularly about sin.  Paul was saying, don't be a part of that but be unified in love around the cross.  Also, see 2 Cor. 12:21; 13:10f for context of how Paul confronted those who he felt necessary to correct.

I've read, not lately, a book With the Old Breed by E. B. Sledge and in the book he tells a story.  They were fighting to take the island of Peleliu which by the way was the bloodiest battle of all time for the Marines and after WWII was seen as a waste because they would've bypassed it to take the Phillipines.  In the book he tells a story about life on this South Pacific island and the problem there was because the whole island was made of lime.  If you know anything about battle in WWII it is about digging trenches so you could get below enemy fire.  Well they couldn't get but maybe a foot or two into the ground, it was arduous. 

After a couple of weeks on the front line they came back to those in the rear, that were getting ready to go into battle or were just troops that were ancillary.  I'll let him explain:

We boarded trucks that carried us southward along the east road then some distance northward along the west road.  As we bumped and jolted past the airfield, we were amazed at all the work the Seabees (naval construction battalions) had accomplished on the field.  Heavy construction equipment was everywhere, and we saw hundreds of service troops, watched our dusty truck convoy go by.  They wore neat caps and dungarees, were clean-shaven, and seemed relaxed.  They eyed us curiously, as though we were wild animals in a circus parade.  I looked at my buddies in the truck and saw why.  The contrast between us and the onlookers was striking.  We were armed, helmeted, unshaven, filthy, tired, and haggard.  The sight of clean comfortable noncombatants was depressing, and we tried to keep up our morale by discussing the show of U.S. material power and technology we saw.

That is a great description of the life of a believer who is in the world every day.  If I tried to live my life in a test tube it wouldn't work, I have to be in the world to earn a living.  But this is the contrast that I feel exists in the church many times, especially the Reformed movement.  You have those who want to make sure that all things are in-line with the Scriptures, w/o giving any kind of leeway to how it is lived out in our world.  I see more brokenness in this world on an average day than most of the people I know.  We live in a broken area of Ft. Worth, in an African-American community, or largely becoming one.  Our lives aren't pretty, we struggle with sin that is deep, we struggle with finances, we struggle with knowing how to raise our children in light of the Scriptures.

What is the point?  Well, the point would be why I come to a meeting of believers, to acknowledge my own sin and be encouraged to take up my cross because normally, I don't want to.  I want to get off the convoy and live like the rest of the people that I see, although I don't see perfectly, at times it is what I perceive.  They have clean shaven faces, they don't have the circles under the eyes, etc...they seem to have all the answers, I want to be there. 

Question is, what am I providing to my brothers and sisters?  How can I receive from them?

Pray for me to continue boasting in the Gospel and not the pride of my own heart that wants to have all the questions answered this side of eternity and live with new eyes to see the heavenly reality.

Your boasting friend,


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