Being a 40 something single guy I feel the vibes/awkward body language when people realize I’m single. Maybe I’m a creep they are thinking, or maybe they are thinking “Wonder why he couldn’t meet anyone…what’s wrong with him”. Or maybe they think, “lucky guy…he has no worries”. I’m sure there are other thoughts on this. However, somehow I have experienced certain events thru the church community that have resulted in me feeling shame. Like the time I admitted I slept with my girlfriend to the pastor. I was a leader of a bible study group at this time, and in the fall the church has this habit or ritual of having all their bible study leaders on stage to be introduced, and prayed for. After this confession, during a service, all bible study leaders were asked to the stage. Of course I went up. Everyone was introduced except for me. Prayer, and then we were sent to our seats. I found out later, that I was deemed by the pastors to have a spiritual deficit because of my behaviour with my girlfriend. In other words I wasn’t close enough to God to be a good example to others. Seems that the church requires perfection for leadership, and Christ requires honesty, humility, and grace to be his follower. Seems like two different standards.
Morality – do we focus on it too much?
Our values over which behaviours indicate true morality are as skewed as our approach to each other is unchristian. Because of the way we judge each other, we become the evaluators of each other’s spirituality and worth. This evaluation belongs to God alone. Read the scriptures carefully, and you’ll find that the pages of the bible are filled with murders and adulterers who love God and are loved by God. A lot of their bad behaviour seems to happen when they are in relationship with God. Could it be that God’s way of approaching human morality and behaviour is radically different from ours?
The curse of Human Nature
Ryan writes in his book (Ashamed no more): “The appeal of a moralizing approach to faith is this: If a person can live a dramatically self sacrificing life or an apparently moral life, it is the curse of human nature to hear that whisper in our hearts, ‘I’m doing good things; I’m a moral person; God must be pleased with me.’ That is the whisper of spiritual idolatry. Instead of our love being focused on God and his desire to love us in spite of ourselves, it is focused on us and our achievements. Jesus calls us to do what we do and to want to do what He wants us to do only because we are increasingly captivated by God’s passionate love for us. ”
It seems in our current church culture that some behaviours are more morally essential then others and some sins are more acceptable then others. Sexual sin, and perhaps abortion, are seen as strong indicators of one whom is not spiritually in relationship with God, more so then sins like ‘gossip’, or ‘gluttony’ . From what I have seen and heard, the church community is quite accepting of gluttony, and seems to overlook gossip as nothing more then a slip of the tongue. Hardly enough to suggest removing someone from leadership. Seems to me that Jesus was more concerned with feeding the hungry, and visiting the prisoners then he was about serving in church leadership. Somehow we have been having a tendency to slide away from the real gospel.
The Dark Side
The dark side of Christian morality is that some of us so want to feel good about ourselves we convince ourselves that God is probably pretty glad we are on his side. We wouldn’t say that out loud, and maybe we don’t even realize that we are thinking it. This is moral hypocrisy, and when we finally confront it, we are likely appalled by it. Pride is at the heart of this.
So everyday I attend church, and serve in sunday school, I know Iam likely being judged in a positive light. But when I admit to lust, or others suggest I used a girl by dating her several times and then disappearing, I am negatively judged. This is how people use moral behaviour to judge the level of someone’s spiritual relationship to God. A visitor comes seeking God at church, but ends up being confronted with a moral teaching that points at one of their habitual sins. This may be good, if they can repent and turn away. however, if they have an addiction to gossip, alcohol, lust, or some other sin, they may leave silently under a cloud of shame. Do they return to church next Sunday, or do they feed their addictive coping mechanism even more just to improve their mood and eliminate the pain of their shame? Where do we experience shame in our lives? How do we respond to shame?