Thursday, February 3, 2011

We've Got It All Wrong . . .

I don't do many "religious" posts per se, but this one has been brewing in my head for awhile now, so I'm going to see how it looks on "paper" . . .

Something that's been striking me more and more lately is how "backwards", we, as Christians tend to have things . . . our tendency to view things as "have to" instead of "get to" . . .

The book I recently reviewed about the Sabbath, highlighted one area where we do this.  The whole premise of the book is "the Sabbath is a delightful, exciting celebration that God wants to share with us each week".  And yet, it seems like we all (or at least most of us) don't "get" that . . . many Christians, of course, don't "keep Sabbath" and accuse those who do of being legalistic and sticking to the law that has been done away with.  I'm not going to get into a discussion here, at this time, as to what laws were and were not done away with or anything like that, because in this case, I see it as a moot point. . . The Sabbath is not about a LAW! It's about a wonderful chance to celebrate!! To say "well the law was done away with, you don't have to keep Sabbath anymore" is (or should be) like me telling my children, "hey, guess what, they've proven that Santa doesn't exist, so now we don't have to have Christmas anymore!"  Think it would go over well? (and just to clarify, my children have known since they were old enough to know who Santa is, that he's not real, and yes, we tend to focus on Christmas being about Jesus, not Santa, but just go with me here . . . for the sake of the illustration . . . ).  I can tell you, my kids' response would be WHO CARES?!?!?! We LIKE Christmas, we want to keep having Christmas!!! And THAT should be our response to the Sabbath "law" question.  WHO CARES if it's no longer "required"!! God still wants to spend one day a week celebrating creation with us, Woo-Hoo!! Let's PARTY!!!

Which brings us to those of us who DO "keep" Sabbath . . . at least the vast majority of those of us that *I* know . . . that's what we do, we KEEP Sabbath. We don't CELEBRATE Sabbath  . . . and therein, I think, lies the problem. Others don't see us reveling in our celebration, so they don't get why we do it . . . and ummm . . . sometimes I don't either.  I once mentioned to a friend, that if the Sabbath is truly a day of rest, FOR ME, it would be a day spent alone in nature instead of getting up and rushing to get children ready and to church on time, and such . . . And I'm not sure how to address that issue, in my life, right now. . . I'm not sure how, within the body of Christ, we balance the fact that a celebration and rest mean different things to different people . . .I love my church family, but for ME, getting up early and getting dressed (and getting 3 kids dressed) and wrangling said kids in a setting that isn't always the most interesting and exciting for them, isn't quite the celebration that I would like Sabbath to be.  I'm not sure how to address this with my kids either. They love our church family, they love Sabbath School, they love our pastor. But understandably, sitting quietly listening to an adult-level program isn't quite their definition of a celebration either.

So, I don't have all the answers, but I do know this . . . when Sabbath becomes a day of "have tos" and "can'ts" we're not celebrating the Sabbath the way God intends us to!

And that's not the only area where we tend to get it backwards . . . tithe is, in my opinion, another one. My husband and I were talking about the home church movement recently, from a bookkeeping standpoint (don't ask, we're accountants, we get into these discussions from time to time . . . ) and I pointed out that, a home church wouldn't have need of much, if any, bookkeeping. That there would be no "facility costs" because people would meet in each others homes. No rent, no utilities . . .. meals are potluck style . . . no corporate structure to support. If, as individuals or a group, the church decides to help those in need, they just pool their money and DO it! (well, if they decide as an individual to help those in need, they just . . . help those in need, but you know what I mean).  To which my husband replied "But then who do they pay tithe to? You have to pay tithe".  And it struck me, we have that backwards to . . . God set up the laws about tithe (and again, not getting into the whole law abolished or not thing here at this time), because the people weren't giving willingly. When we're only giving because we "have to", we ask "so how much do we have to give?" and God says . . . well, give at least 10%. BUT . . .if we're giving from a loving heart, we don't ask how much do we have to give, we ask, how much CAN we give?  A couple years ago a friend was sending Christmas boxes to an orphanage in Hati. I read the e-mail I'd gotten to the girls, describing the conditions at the orphanage, and what these children did and didn't have. And then I took them shopping and let them each make up a Christmas box to send. And you know what? They didn't ask "how many things do we have to put in the box?" they kept begging, "Please Mommy, can't we put this in too? Just one more thing, PLEASE . . . those kids don't have this . . . " Now granted, they were spending my money (although they did also share some of their Halloween candy, and some money from their piggy banks), but I don't think that matters here. They WANTED to give to these children. They felt compassion for children living in a world they couldn't fully fathom. And I didn't have to put a bottom limit on their giving. And THAT is how we should be! We should be looking at our budgets and saying "how much can we give, where can we cut back in order to give more? And if we are doing that. If we are truly embracing God's love for ALL people, and are trying to help as many people as we can, as much as we can, with the resources God has given us, I can guarantee, we'll be giving well over 10%!!

And finally . . . children.  I have a quote in my sidebar that says

"The Bible calls children blessings and debt a curse. Yet in our society we apply for curses and reject blessings. Something is wrong with this picture. -Doug Phillips"

and it is SOO true of our society! Even in the church.  Recently I happened to read my church's "official statement" on birth control, and a portion of it says

 "The perpetuation of the human family is one of God's purposes for human sexuality (Gen 1:28). Though it may be inferred that marriages are generally intended to yield offspring, Scripture never presents procreation as an obligation of every couple in order to please God." 

And I thought . . . that's true! God doesn't want the bearing, or raising of children to be an obligation! He intends it to be a blessing!! To say "God doesn't say we HAVE to have children" is, in God's eyes, like my child saying "well, Mom doesn't say we HAVE to eat dessert!" It's a true statement,  BUT . . . just like the Christmas example, my children would find it ludicrous. Of course they don't HAVE to eat dessert, they want to and they beg to and they are very excited when they get to eat dessert. And THAT should be our view of children. Children are an amazing, miraculous blessing from God! But we, as a society, have come to view them as an inconvenience. Have you ever stopped to consider how many parenting articles, and baby/kid STUFF is designed to make children "more convenient" to parents? There are countless books, articles, message board posts, facebook statuses and playgroup conversations about getting baby to sleep through the night. And yet, a baby is a baby for such a short time.  Now don't get me wrong, there are nights when I've BEGGED Little Bit "PLEASE, just let me have ONE NIGHT of sleeping all night!!". There are days when I don't think I can handle the sleep deprivation . . . but then, I look at my big girls. And I remember feeling the same way when they were babies/toddlers, and it seems like it was just yesterday, but it was SIX YEARS AGO (they're almost 8).  Now, I tell them to go to sleep and, unless they are sick or something else completely out-of-the-ordinary, I don't hear from them until morning. And suddenly, as I look at how big they're getting, I find the strength to cuddle Little Bit when she wakes up at night. And keep on going when I'm tired during the day (because I DID cuddle Little Bit half the night instead of sleeping . . . she's a wiggle worm, I can't sleep through her nursing like I could the big girls AND she has a rather frustrating habit of sitting up next to me and flinging herself back against me, and she has a HARD head . . .).  So, I "get it" sleep deprivation can be hard. But it's a short time. And they're SOO little and SOO special and before I know it, instead of Little Bit pushing herself against me at night, as if she couldn't possibly get close enough, she'll be jumping up and down, excited to go on a trip "without Mommy" like the big girls did this fall . . .  I'll take the cuddles, and sleep deprivation, thankyouverymuch.  And that's just one issue.  My girls and I somehow got into a conversation about bed & breakfasts recently. Over the course of the conversation, I explained that often B&Bs don't allow children, and then, in trying to verbalize how a B&B is different from a hotel (afterall, we generally stay in hotels that offer free breakfasts, so to a literal child, with no true point of reference . . . what's the difference?), I described it a being more "like a family" . . .But Mommy? They don't allow CHILDREN?!?! Hmmm . . . good point . . . don't ask me, I don't make the rules . . . 

So, what's my point? I'm not really sure . . . I think it's that I know *I* need to focus on my relationship with God, and seeking His will, because it is HIS WILL . . .not just HIS REQUIREMENT. Perhaps it's that, if we are truly focused on a relationship with God, so many of the rules and arguments would become non-issues . . . maybe it's just to give us all a little something to think about . . . 

What do YOU think? 


Kris said...

I actually have been to a home church. We really enjoyed it more so then your typical church setting, the kids enjoyed it also, you know everyone and the service is more in detail. The food was always you make a dish and bring it, finger foods etc. We have since went back to a church setting due to the drive, but we miss the home church. As for the celebrating the Sabbath I understand your side, I too have issues with saying we honor the sabbath yet its all work and not so much time with Jesus. The sabbath to me should be out in Gods great creation spending time with Him, not getting kids ready and rushing to church and going to lunch with friends and shopping! I love this post thank you for sharing, I am now understanding that I am not the only one who has some issues with how things are working!!! Blessings!!!

Julie Coney said...

Very good points. I really think that you are on to something with the Sabbath conversation.
I have often wondered why is it the day I am supposed to devote to worship, ends up being the day with the most responsibilites. There is nursery duty, the choir practicex2, chimes choir.... the list goes on... I never feel rested, and truly able to focus on Worship, because I am rushing from one commitment to another.

I agree with you a 1000% on the tithe... it has to come from a willing heart, otherwise God doesn't even want our 10%.

I don't know about home churches, I have never been to one... maybe it is something I should investigate.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!