Gay marriage. Women bishops. Infant baptism. Creation v evolution. Married priests. The role of the Church in public life. Public prayer. Symbols of faith in the workplace. The growth of Islam. What colour the new pew cushions should be.
These are all debates which the Church is involved in either internally or with those outside of the Church. They are all very important matters.
Except the pew cushions.
And whether you can wear a cross at work or not. *ducks for cover*
They are all, however, matters which have either divided the Church internally or alienated us from many who do not yet follow Jesus. They are things which need to be discussed, but with great care.
Now, before anyone says that I feel that great care should be taken in order to avoid offence, let me explain. I feel that Jesus’ central messages will offend. It’s unavoidable. Why else would He have been killed for what he said and did?
No, we need to take great care because they are divisive issues, but they’re not the most important issues. Jesus never mentioned any of them as far as we can see in the canonical gospels. Yes, He talks about marriage, but not about gay or priests’ marriage. Yes, He talks to and about women, but not about women bishops (or bishops at all, for that matter). He says we should take up our cross, but this is figurative, not a call to wear jewellery. He mentions baptism, but not adult or infant baptism specifically. He mentions creation, but the people of the time had no concept of Evolution, so it would only confuse them to talk about it.
He does not, at any stage, profess a preference for blue or green pew cushions.
We need to discuss and debate, I said as much in a previous post. However, we cannot do it to the extent that we lose sight of what is most important. If we do that then we’re as useful as the fig tree Jesus cursed. Never to bear fruit.
“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43 NIV)
We aren’t the ones who killed Jesus, like the religious leaders whom this was addressed to were to do, but we face the same dangers. The more inward looking we are, the less fruitful we become.
Yes, the Church does wonderful works for many of the most vulnerable around the world. I could reel off so many names of organisations; The Trussel Trust, Compassion UK, The Vine Trust, XLP, Scripture Union, Christian Aid, Hope HIV, Barnabus Fund and many others who work to bring God’s Kingdom on Earth in a real way to those who are lost. But so much of this awesome work can be wrecked by the squabbling over less important issues and the way in which it is done.
At the moment, our world is like the tenant of the farm who killed the landowner’s servant, then his son. It’s like the people originally invited to the wedding banquet for the king’s son. Jesus is being rejected, and those of us who follow him are one of the big reasons why. Do we stand out? Do we bring light and salt to the world? Do we love our neighbour as ourselves? Do we show all those invited to the banquet why they, too should put on their best clothes and come and join us?
I don’t. I’m ashamed to say it, but I really don’t. I try, and I keep trying, but I fall way short. I get involved in petty squabbles, I blend in, I don’t always make the effort to love the hard to love. I stay in my comfort zone far too much and don’t do everything I speak and write about. I don’t produce the fruit I am expected to do.
So I fear being cursed, told I will never bear fruit, and withering. It’s one reason I write this blog. To share my faith and my God with others. It’s a small thing, but it’s a start.
We all need to make that small step, or even that giant leap, or we’ll find that the Kingdom will be taken away from us and given to those who produce fruit. So I ask you, do you produce fruit already, or are your branches looking a bit bare?
Let’s move on from our concerns. Let’s do what we are asked, no, made to do.
It’ll be good. I promise!