Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Systems - II

Lest people start tearing down all churches, denominations and associations, because of what I said in my last post, systems are not necessarily evil. The church of God is a group of people called out from the general populace to complete God’s mission, to demonstrate God’s nature, to love one another and to love the world. Anytime a group of people function together, there has to be an agreement of how the group, whether it is a family, a club, a church or a business, should act as a group with those on the outside of the group and with those within the group. As a result of these agreements, formal and informal policies and guidelines are built, based on the common, organizing values and principles of the group. And a system is born. It is inherent in the agreements that bind the group together.

The danger of systems is that policies established for good and profitable reasons get cast in stone. They can last unchanged and unchallenged long after the reasons that caused them to be formed have ceased to exist.

As followers of Jesus, we use the Scriptures as the basis for all such policies. They should be tailored to the conditions of the culture and society. Which may mean that a policy set up in one context may have a hindering effect in another context.

For example, there are groups of Christians that hold that “dancing” is an inappropriate and bad activity. Does the Scripture say anything about dancing? There is no command against dancing. There is no teaching about dancing. It is mentioned:

  • In celebration of a deliverance.
  • In celebration of an important event.
  • Encouraged as an act of worship.

Scripture hardly paints this human activity as inherently evil. Why do these groups have this policy? I do not have definite information regarding this. So, I assume/deduce that a policy was formed, because dancing was associated with something definitely bad. It was something that interfered with God’s mission, or that hindered people from living out a life that agreed with God’s design. So, these groups agreed to avoid this area, not because it was evil per se, but it tended to have a countering influence in other important areas. In this context, it hindered things that God considered vitally important. Therefore, it was a wise, God-honoring decision.

But, as I stated earlier, these policies can become cast in stone. They attain a status almost equal to Scripture. They persist long after the reasons for their existence, no longer exist.

(I am not taking a pro-dancing position. I am using it as an example of a gray area that Scripture does not condemn, but has been abused in certain contexts. In those contexts, it was wise and God-fearing to avoid. I am hoping to make a point about systems.)

Things like these take on a life of their own. They develop a momentum that makes it difficult to shift direction. It becomes much easier to find other motivations, other reason, to perpetuate the policies. And a refusal to change can dishonor God.

One of my assumptions is God communicates to me in all my current situations. God does not just direct me through a book with an historical context. His Spirit illuminates this book in my current context. He whispers to my heart about where I am right now.

He is more than able to direct policies – to initiate, to cancel, to reformulate. It takes effort, self-denial, honesty and humility on our part to approach these policies, give them to God, and ask what does he want done with them.

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