Don’t Tempt Me!

Twice in the last 4 days I have heard preachers teach that the story of the Fall implicates God in our sinfulness. That’s not the way to tell the story; the next time I hear a trained clergy do so, I may scream!

Both times the story of God telling the man and woman not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was similarly characterized. Both stories involve a mother and a child. In the first one, the mom has just baked a cake, in the second a plate of cookies. In both, she tells the child not to eat, then leaves for some time.

Both preachers, both of whom have done well with their careers, likened God’s warnign not to eat to the mother’s.

I’m sorry, but that metaphor doesn’t work.

In the first place, the one tree in the garden from which they were commanded not to eat wasn’t the only food option. They were invited, welcomed, encouraged to eat of any other tree. For the mother and child story to approximate this, there would have to be a kitchen full of food and the child told not to eat of one particular plate therein.

In the second place for a mother to do as both preachers said would clearly be begging the child by her actions to do what the child has been instructed not to do by her words.

Mothers may tempt children. God doesn’t tempt us.

Re-read Genesis 3.  Tell me what you think.

What are you into?

I already posted about this over on emergent Waco, but I want to go further here.

In a conversation with one of our youth here, I was told that he wasn’t “into religion.”

I pondered what all to do with that statement, and answered that sometimes I didn’t think I was all that into religion either.

His response, when I asked what he meant, was that he used to go to church, when he was little, but then someone told him he didn’t have to go anymore, and he quit going.

Is that what not being “into religion” means?  I can’t tell you how many people have told me they feel like they can worship God as well on the golf course or lake as in church (not that they do; just that they can).   So, perhaps, all those people just aren’t really “into religion” either?

I don’t mind telling you, I’m still a bit mixed on it all myself.  One of the few specifically memorable experiences I had at seminary was reading Bonhoeffer’s writings about “religionless Christianity.”  Those words wedged into me in a way that I’ve not since been able to shake.  They haunt me – more some times than others.

The only place that religion is defined in the Bible, James 1:27, says “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

I don’t think that is what anyone means who says they aren’t “into religion.”

I think what they usually mean is that they aren’t into church.

There are aspects of church I’m not into, either.  When church is about maintaining a decaying bureaucracy, I’m not into it.  When church is about going through some supposedly spiritual motions because “we’ve always done it that way,” I’m not into it. When church is getting more people into a social club, I’m not into it.  When church is about offering people a hypothetical “get out of hell free card,” I’m not into it.

When church is about self-congratulatory stands against the next thing youth culture has adopted, I’m not into it.  When church is about fine-tuning definitions of who’s in and who’s out, I’m not into it. When church is about how many pipes an organ has or how great the lead guitarist is, I’m not into it.

On the other hand, God is not worshiped and cannot be worshiped, the same way on the golf course or lake as in the church. I suppose one can offer help and hope to widows and orphans from the green or a boat, but to keep oneself unstained by the world – ah, there… you’re going to need help.

We followers of Christ, we people of God need each other. We absolutely cannot make it on our own.  For this, if for no other reason, we need the church; we need religion.

Where the church (or religion) isn’t about the people of God caring for widows and orphans and helping one another remain unstained by the world, it really isn’t being the church. Where the church (or religion) is truly living as the Body of Christ, mutually supporting, admonishing, edifying, correcting, encouraging, challenging to remain unstained, that’s what I’m into.

What are you into?

That’s what I’m into.