Saturday, February 10, 2007

Living under the law

Our church is having a Sunday preaching series on recovery from addictions, with handouts for personal or group study, with an over arching theme, Pathway to a Life that Matters. Someone, the person who wrote the handouts or suggested the current series, is quite enamored of the 12 step program for addictions. Frankly, I've yet to hear or participate in a Christian 12-step program that is as good as the original "Higher Power" AA program. I attended many meetings in the 1980s, and if I ever needed to seek out accepting, non-judgemental people, that's where I would go, even today. And trust me, I have many other options and resources. When well intentioned people try to take this model and revise it for weight loss, shopping or Christian accountability, it just falls flat.

But when Christian preachers and staff do try to help the disciples of Jesus who are plagued with overeating, codependency, grief, alcohol or drugs, and don't first and last build up the believer with the Good News of Jesus' life, death and resurrection, they are teaching and preaching the law, not the Gospel.

I haven't attended the Sunday School classes, so this past week I just stopped at the front desk and picked up the first five handouts that go along with the sermon series. The format for each week is Pray, Discuss, Read, Reflect, Consider, Pray. All five handouts are legalistic and narcissistic. I got to week 4 before the word "Jesus" even appeared. Not even the prayers are "In the name of Jesus." Almost all the scripture references are to the Old Testament, and one verse in Matthew doesn't mention in the outline that Jesus said it, and it is so out of context it doesn't even say why "the burden is light." (hint: Jesus died for our sins) Twelve step programs are about moral inventories; Christianity is about forgiven sins and living a changed life in Christ.

If this were a two hour class, where the teachers could lead gently and quitely up to the unveiling of the Good News so they wouldn't scare anyone away at potty breaks, I could give the writer a two on a scale of ten. But saved sinners and unsaved seekers (the only two groups in the pew) come and go, float in and out, attend at 3 locations choosing one or more of our 10 services. Please, please, please dear godly, believing pastors (and whoever wrote this pablum), don't let a single opportunity go by that you don't let the people know that Jesus loves them so much he lived a perfect life and died a perfect death on their behalf, and that the solution for their hurts and griefs and addictions is Jesus, not another self-help program that can send them to Hell with good intentions and a pat on the back!

When Paul told Peter to live by faith, not the law (Galatians 2)

Concerning the Jews in Jerusalem
Peter and Paul had a big spat
"You’re putting them under the law, old friend."
Paul told Peter, "Don't preach like that."

Not for a minute did Saint Paul give in,
Even when they were face to face.
At Antioch Paul then told Saint Peter
"Your gospel is such a disgrace."

"We know by law we are not justified
Although by birth we are both Jews,
Our faith is in Christ Jesus, Risen Lord
From whom we have heard the Good News."

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