Thursday, October 14, 2010

Not Acceptance, But Transformation

God does not accept me ‘as I am.’

Never has.  Never will.

God accepts me ‘as Jesus is.’

That is God accepts me because, and only because, Christ has joined himself to me in a covenant, has declared before heaven and earth that he has taken my sinful identity into himself (and has borne the full consequences) and given me right to his righteous identity in exchange.

Therefore (because God does not accept me as I am) I have no right to insist that my church community accepts me ‘just as I am,’ regardless of how far I fall short of Christlikeness, regardless of the extent to which I am still living out my old identity.  That is not the basis of inclusion.  I must desire transformation from the state that never was acceptable to God into the likeness of the One who is; or else I have no love for Him, no love for his brothers and sisters.

And therefore (because God accepts me as Jesus is) I have no right to sever ties with another member of my church community on the grounds of their falling short of Christlikeness.  That is not the basis for exclusion.  I do not mean by this that the church has no urgent imperative to discipline those members who refuse to repent of wilful separation from Christ and his own, whose actions cut themselves off from the body; but rather to insist that we are one body, not so many individuals – “though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread” – and so cannot sever ourselves from another member lightly, petulantly.

The church does not exist to meet my perceived needs – including my need to be accepted as I am – but as the instrument of my transformation; to shape me; in order that I might become more Christ-like.

The church is the crowd who welcome my entry with celebration, and the crowd who call for my death soon after; the soldiers who flay and crucify me; the tomb which receives my body; the women who come bearing spices to embalm me; the morning that witnesses my rising [one] with Christ; the disciples that bear witness to God’s new creation.

And in this way – counter-intuitively; ironically, even – God uses the church to meet the true needs I fail to perceive...

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