Friday, May 1, 2009

5/1- Loyalty to the Church

(St. Pierre in Geneva where Calvin preached- inside view)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

5/1- Calvin’s View of Loyalty in the church (IV.1.10-16)

9God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. 10I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ." 13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified to dfor you? Were you baptized into[b] the name of Paul? (I Corinthians 1:9-13)

Calvin: They claim that the church of Christ is holy [Ephesians 5:26]. But in order that they may know that the church is at the same time mingled of good men and bad, let them hear the parable from Christ’s lips that compares the church to a net bin which all kinds of fish are gathered and are not sorted until laid out on the shore Matthew 13:47-58]. Let them hear that it is like a field sown with good seed which is through the enemy’s deceit scattered with tares and is not purged of them until the harvest is brought into the threshing floor Matthew 13:24-3-]. Let them hear finally that it is like a threshing floor on which grain is so collected that it lies hidden under the chaff until, winnowed by fan and sieve, it is at last stored in the granary [Matthew 3:12]. But if the Lord declares that the church is to labor under this evil—to be weighed down with the mixture of the wicked—until the Day of Judgment, they are vainly seeking a church besmirched with no blemish…But even if the church be slack in its duty, still each and every individual has not the right at once to take upon himself the decision to separate. Indeed, I do not deny that it is the godly man’s duty to abstain from all familiarity with the wicked, and not to enmesh himself with them in any voluntary relationship. But it is one thing to flee the boon companionship of the wicked; another, in hating them, to renounce the communion of the church. (IV.1.13,15)

Americans leave their church almost as quickly as they leave their loyalty to department stores. There is a consumer mentality to our churches, and some of us (including me) have fostered that. Some may have even more loyalty to where they buy clothes or groceries than where they go to church. Calvin was basically kicked out of the church when they tried to kill him in Paris. Yet Calvin did not advocate not going to church, even though church people were literally trying to kill him. He did not give up on the Protestant reformation even when the Genevans kicked him out. Calvin lived out loyalty to the church. He worked to bring the Lutherans and Reformed together, though for the most part he was unsuccessful. He accepted baptism in the Roman Catholic church (contra the Anabaptists). He has been severely criticized for this. But Calvin believed in grace and that the Lord makes the church holy, not the people who run it. The Holy Spirit makes the church holy, just as the Holy Spirit makes the Bible real to us today. Calvin wrote that division in the church is a sin. He spent much time saying that and little time at all giving any exceptions to that rule. Calvin wrote that people should not leave the church just because the minister is wrong, or the church makes wrong decisions, or that there are wicked people in the church. Why did he say this? Because he felt this was God’s will put forth in scripture. Yet, in our day people leave the church because someone has offended them, or the minister didn’t see them when they wanted to be seen, or a vote did not go their way or a hundred other things. In America people are leaving the church in droves (down 8% in 10 years). This is especially true of the nominal Christians (the Christmas and Easter ones). They may claim to keep their faith, but the generation after them- their children- basically grow up without faith, and without seeing any importance in being with God’s people. Without a sense of loyalty and commitment, how can we grow in trust and love for each other and work together for the glory of God? Would that we find the loyalty to the church that Calvin wrote about and lived in our day.
The other way people leave the church is schism. I have served two churches now that have lived through schism (my current one has been through it twice). Each time people would leave, there would be another group (about the same number as those who leave to form a new “better” church) who basically quit coming. They either became totally inactive, or became Easter and Christmas Christians. Calvin actually spoke a lot against the idea of schism (especially in IV.1). Jesus spoke of the need for unity among his followers (John 17) and love. Paul and Peter wrote against divisions in the church. Yet, we have this uncanny way of applying the scripture to everything but our own situation. “Our hearts deceive us” Calvin said (echoing Jeremiah). We live in a disloyal age. Our age is disloyal to the things once held as sacred. We are disloyal to our families (divorce rate has hovered at 50% for years, and now more young people live together than get married). We are disloyal to our work and employees (the average American changes jobs much more often). We are disloyal to our church and Lord as well. We are hyper-individualistic. If we look out for number one, and stay to ourselves, maybe we won’t get the swine flu. But maybe we will miss out on human love, encouragement and communion. Calvin would ask us if we really could say (with integrity) that phrase in the Apostles' Creed, "I believe in the holy catholic church."

Prayer: In your providence Lord, you call us to worship you. You place us in the right place at the right time. Keep us from giving up on church or giving in to facing the problems we face in church.

No comments:

Post a Comment