Saturday, March 13, 2004

12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee 12

12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee (like me): Finding Grace to Live Unmasked by John Fischer on Amazon

STEP 12: "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we will try to carry this message to others who think that Christians are better than everyone else."

Step 12 text notes:

12 steps for the recovering pharisee book coverThe song JF quotes at the beginning and end of the chapter reminds me of REM's "Everybody Hurts." Christians "distant and odd?" But we're supposed to be peculiar people . . . however, we're not supposed to be distant at all, but rather completely engaged with the world. Experiences those others out there have with us real Christians, yes. I've previously mentioned how irritated I get when yet once again I get the unexciting, dreary, out-of-this-world imagining of the so called typical Christian directed at wonderful, totally untypical me. Branding . . . we've been discussing branding over on Evangelism! Image or message? Both image and message need interpretation, though – you can't assume either at face value, since what you see isn't necessarily all you get. Behavioral and cultural issues: if you start attending church maybe you can't have any fun any more. The leader blasting himself totally out of this world! Exactly the popular image of Christians and Christianity: being born for heaven and dying to go there, rather than dying and being reborn to serve this world. Telling our stories so others can identify with them and make us credible. Yes, but more and more I'm tired of using or hearing a lot of those down-home personal sermon examples. These days when I preach I avoid them almost entirely. Sinners in need of a Savior? But also in need of reconciling, covenanted community where a person (you or me) can be themselves, can be real! Going out of our way "to be human." I like that a whole lot. Gesture hieratic and profound? "Hieratic" is a new word to me. As in "hierarchy?" At the banquet of the living—the table of forgiving . . .

1. What is your initial response to being made sport of by the world for being a believer? Is the ridicule simply because you are a Christian, or because you are a Pharisee? Would the criticism be different in each case?

It's tiresome. However, it doesn't bother me nearly as much as it used to. It is (was) more because of my being a Christian than because of any particularly pharisaical behavior I was guilty of. What used to get to me extremely were those so-called intellectuals expressing surprise that an intelligent person like me would be so "superstitious."

2. Why does knowing who we are in Christ become so important when facing the mocking of the world? How can we respond in the way Jesus would?

If we know our identity as people doubly the children of God, that awareness goes far in equipping us with a modicum of equanimity to face the world. To respond as Jesus would? First . . . (taking a deep breath) "pray always" – being in that constant communication with God is essential, and then not to worry about the outcome of what I've said or done.

3. Write out a quick list: What examples of "branding" can you see if you take an honest look at your life? In what ways have you focused more on an image than on a message?

Oh, image image image image image! * And more of the same! *

4. How can an abortion doctor or a pornographer be closer to God's kingdom than a church member or a church officer?

I don't have an answer for this question.

5. How does being vulnerable about struggles enhance rather than harm our witness? Are there certain things we should keep under wraps? Are there any lines that need to be drawn? Why?

It makes us credible and not sounding too preachy and self righteous or anything related to it. I think some things need to be kept more private, so we avoid the sin of pride about being greater sinners (and then more forgiven, and therefore more favored to God) than other people. And it depends on the setting, public, private, or halfway in-between the two. It also depends on the history and degree of intimacy you have with the person or persons you're with.

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