1Co 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
As many of you know, our church here has invited those who have been abused not only at the hands of a RASN, but also had that abuse added to by their church, to join us as their church. Some of you have even been ex-communicated for separating from an evil spouse. For you to continue in a local church has been virtually impossible. For others, there is simply no real, sound church locally to be found. This is not to be attributed to an unreasonable “pickiness” over minor issues. Numbers of you have chosen to become “distance members” of Christ Reformation Church, and you have really become part of us.
Now, there are Christians who struggle with this concept. This group wrestles with the honest question, for instance, of Scripture telling us to be sure and gather together and not forsake the assembling of the saints. I had those questions myself initially. But, in the end, I concluded that we are to gather together WITH THE SAINTS (see Hebrews 10 on this). Being part of a local, visible church that is filled with hypocrites, where abusers are protected and victims are oppressed, where habitual sin is tolerated and thus a false gospel is preached, is NOT gathering together with the saints!
Now, I am thinking about this topic because recently we ran into a professing Christian who was quite critical of our distance outreach. This person said, upon learning of our online members, that “yes, people have become just too lazy to get up and go to a real church, so they just sit at home and watch online.” Pride and Prejudice, you see. This individual had no knowledge of who our online members are (or even those of you who follow us regularly). They had no knowledge of the fact that, to my knowledge, NONE of you are “too lazy to get up and go to church.” I mean, such a person could be out there, but I regularly communicate with many of you and, in fact, those of you I know are genuine, committed believers who have been sorely oppressed, who would, in a moment join a real church if you could find one. But this critic has no knowledge of you, no knowledge of what you have been through, no knowledge that you hunger and thirst for God’s Word but haven’t been able, in spite of searching and searching, to find a place locally where that priceless pearl of the gospel is to be found.
Pride and Prejudice. Enemies of righteousness. This business of pride is vast. Over the years we have come up against it time and time again. We ourselves must battle it, but so many others choose to walk in this pit. Entitlement. Superiority. A demand for praise to be supplied by others. Those ensnared to it are drawn deeper and deeper into this abyss until they are either mercifully broken by the Lord, or they continue to descend, never to come out.
Christians must be humble. We must not behave toward others as if we know all about them, because we don’t. We must not judge someone because they don’t measure up to our traditions. Christians who have lived a sheltered life, raised up in a local church where there is a big, beautiful building, a sanctuary replete with a $150,000 pipe organ, fine woodwork, a big choir….and more…simply do not understand. They have never been the target of a wicked narcissist (or perhaps they are enslaved to one but don’t know it!). They don’t even realize that victims of RASN’s exist among them. And so, as was the case with this person we heard recently, to pronounce judgment upon sisters and brothers in Christ who are suffering, is to judge by a false standard. It is to be unkind. It is to speak in arrogance. It is to judge by outward appearance. And worst of all, it is to exalt oneself and speak out of a spirit of superiority and partiality – ‘I am better than you.’
Think carefully now. What was the local church like in early New Testament times – in the time for example of the Apostles? In the time of persecution from Rome? The day may well come, you know, when we are returned to such times – in fact, that day WILL come because Antichrist will one day be allowed, for a brief time, to establish his worldwide kingdom. Will this critic I am speaking of here dress up in their Sunday clothes and take a pleasant drive to the brick and mortar edifice, walk in unmolested as always? Of course not. In those days the church will have to meet secretly – in private homes and catacombs. And, might I suggest, gathering together via online means if possible.
Think of the Apostle Paul. How did the early churches hear from him? You know the answer – we see it in the New Testament. He wrote letters and they were read in the small local gatherings of believers in someone’s living room. Then those letters were passed on to others. Paul had never seen the Laodiceans in person –
Col 4:15-16 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. (16) And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.
If Paul had the internet, do you think for a minute that he would have refused to use it in order to gather together online with these people he considered his church?
Well, that is enough, I have gone on longer than usual. May the Lord keep all of us humble and deliver us from Pride and Prejudice.