In my last blog post I mentioned the delight of time away on a retreat for some rest and restoration. The place in which I took the retreat is actually the home for a community of people whom I got to meet whilst on the trip. I shared meals with some precious old men and women who were in the latter years of a life committed to serving the Lord in various capacities. Before I share some reflective concerns from being within this community for a time I want to reiterate what precious individuals these people were - their kindness and openness to me was richly warming. But there were two things that concerned me, upon reflection, with their ideology and general ethos.
Firstly, there was a total embracing of inter-faith relations that seemed in its outworking to form a Christian faith that had lost its fundamental identity. There is absolutely nothing wrong with relating to people of other faiths - in fact in postmodern Europe there is almost not the possibility of a working life without it. The idea of 'being missional' in its very essence demands that it is people of all race, religion etc. with whom we are to form authentic relationship. This inter-faith relation that received such significance in this community appeared something else all together. The upshot of it all, as it appeared to me at least, was a conclusion that Christ's sole purpose was to bring peace, any element of vicarious sacrifice in order to turn away the righteous wrath of God seemed necessarily absent or at the very least inconsequential. This concerns me. The bible does not merely intimate but portrays overtly that we are enemies of God at a 'DNA' level. The peace we need is - yes with each other - but primarily and essentially with the God of heaven. If your faith is one that denies that God the Father of Jesus Christ, his eternally begotten, co-divine, exact radiant image, is God then the peace that ultimately must be sought is with Him; and that is ONLY through FAITH in the gospel of Jesus Christ and submission to His lordship.
My second concern, which may simply be symptomatic of the first, but not necessarily so, was that the result of the transformative work of the Holy Spirit was niceness. The conversation that surrounded me at meal times and at other moments smacked of those who perhaps had settled for an understanding that "Jesus died to make us nice;" not radical, not zealous, certainly not 'non-pc' or offensive, but "nice." May I place it on record now that Christ did not endure all that he endured to make us nice - we can make ourselves nice! Christ died to transform our very nature and to make us loving but loving and nice are not synonymous, be absolutely certain you understand that. I am exceedingly offensive to a secular-humanist who believes he is God and the centre of the universe when I tell Him he is not and that He desperately needs to encounter the real God and become nothing in order to become something.
Just concerns really but things that simply do not match up to biblically-rooted gospel truth.