Community and Sectarianism

Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places

Getting saved is easy; becoming a community is difficult – damnably difficult (250).

We are a community. We are not ourselves by ourselves. We are born into communities, we live in communities, we die in communities. Human beings are not solitary, self-sufficient creatures. As we realize both the necessity and the nature of our lives in community, we also become aware of the difficulty, the complexity, and as Christians who are following Jesus, the seductions all around us to find an easier way, a modified community, a reduced community customized to my preferences, a “gated community.”

Sectarianism involves deliberately and willfully leaving the large community, the “great congregation” that is features so often in the Psalms, the whole company of heaven and earth, and embarking on a path of special interest with some others, whether few or many, who share similar tastes and concerns.

Sectarianism is to the community what heresy is to theology, a willful removal of a part from the whole. The part is, of course, good – a work of God. But apart from the whole it is out of context and therefore diminished, disengaged from what is needs from the whole and from what what’s left of the whole needs from it (239-40).

A. Orendorff

The most accurate measure of how authentically we are “doing” Christian community is simple: How many of the people close to you don’t you like? Such an assessment may sound harsh, and is of course easily misinterpreted, but what it means is this: Look at the people to whom you devote your time and relational energy. Who are they? Are they easy people, clean people, respectable, stable and necessary people? Are they efficient and productive people, people who make you feel better about who you are? The degree to which we devote ourselves to people who (from all worldly estimations) add nothing to us is the degree to which we have internalized much of the gospel. Grace in relationships – the essence of a gospel-shaped community – takes concrete shape only as we begin to say yes to relationships that can offer us nothing of economic, relational, and promotional value. The degree to which the people we invite obtrusively into our lives are people who we (in our more selfish and fleshly moments) could easily and happily do without is the degree to which we are doing more than “sinners do.”

Luke 6:32-36

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

The Spirituality of Me

Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places (pg. 243)
It is an odd phenomenon to observe followers of Jesus, suddenly obsessed with their wonderfully saved souls, setting about busily cultivating their own spiritualities. Self-spirituality has become the hallmark of our age. The spirituality of Me. A Spirituality of self-centering, self-sufficiency and self-development. All over the world at the present time we have people who have found themselves redefined by the revelation of God in Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, going off and cultivating the divine within and abandoning spouses, children, friends and congregations.
Paul Zahl, Grace in Practice (pg. 143)
Grace demolishes the idea of need-fulfillment. Need-fulfillment is a law that has no possible final satisfaction. Human need is limitless on its own terms. It is a bottomless well, a pail with a hole in the bottom. Grace nullifies this. The need for personal fulfillment is not met in Christianity. It is destroyed.
J.I. Packer and Carolyn Nystom, Praying (pg. 126-27)
A life of repentance is, in reality, a life of self-denial. When Jesus talked about self-denial he was…telling us that we have to say no to “carnal self,” that is, to our inner selfhood that has been shaped by sin into the mold of an ugly, self-serving egocentricity. This carnal self seeks to lead us along its own path…Sin in our system enslaves our natural self-love to unnatural pride, so as to keep us from loving God and others. So God exposes to our consciences, our self-absorption and self-centeredness, our tendency to focus entirely on ourselves and our own concerns.
Aaron Orendorff
Any vision of the Christian life that focuses directly upon the self – that speaks constantly my spirituality, my ­sanctification, my growth in grace – is doomed from the start. This is not to say that self-examination is itself a bad or corrupting practice, far from it. One of our greatest needs as deceived and deceptive people is to see ourselves as we are, not as we would like to be nor as others might see us, but as we truly are – unadorned, unpretensed and naked. Our trouble arises when the quest for self-knowledge – or worse “self-improvement” – becomes an end in itself rather than a means. All our spiritual striving must culminate not in us being better people, abstracted from the concrete realities of relationship and location, but better community members – better husbands and wives, better sons and daughters, better employers and employees, better friends, better neighbors, better listeners, better encouragers, better critics and ultimately better worshipers.

Amillennialism and The “Future” Kingdom of God

A common misunderstanding about amillennialism—the belief that the millennial period from Revelation 20 spans from the time of Christ’s first advent to his second—is that covenant theologians regard the kingdom of God as a wholly invisible and wholly present reality with no future, earthly fulfillment. It is argued that because amillennialists have no place in their eschatological scheme for Jesus reigning upon an earthly throne in Jerusalem, they therefore by necessity have no place for an earthly, consummated kingdom. Far to the contrary, the amillennial position on the nature of God’s kingdom is that it is both a present and future reality – i.e., that it is both already-and-not-yet, inaugurated but not consummated – and that both these present and future elements of the kingdom include spiritual as well as earthly dimensions. This fulfillment, however, will not take place during a future millennial period but rather at the end of the age when Christ returns and heaven and earth are renewed. To say that because amillennialists do not affirm Christ’s earthly reign “from a throne in Jerusalem” then they cannot affirm an earthly future for God’s kingdom is to confuse a particular (premillennial) understanding of what Christ’s reign will look like with the broader category of God’s kingdom. Such an assertion would be similar to an amillennialist saying that because premillennialists do not affirm that Satan is currently bound so they cannot affirm the current, spiritual presence of God’s kingdom.

The follow excepts (follow the link below) are meant not necessarily as arguments in favor of the amillennial position but rather as a clarification of what is the amillennial position concerning the kingdom is.

Amillennialism and The “Future” Kingdom of God