Disillusionment in the Body of Christ
When we repeatedly see in others their differences, or failures, it makes us feel dissatisfied and depressed. We call such feelings "disillusionment." It is while experiencing disillusionment that our greatest choices in life are made. Here is a picture of someone who chooses foolishly, Luke 18:9-14,
Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
It's one thing to see what is "missing" in someone else. It's another to derive one's purpose out of their shortcoming. Comparing ourselves to others is not the way. Our self-worth isn't obliterated when we are humble. Humility restores our sense of self-worth. It assumes the equal value of everyone, but those who don't believe it fight and quarrel to make life "fair" (James 4:1-4). As we focus firstly on Christ and His love, our sins seem bigger and others' sins seem smaller. Knowing our own struggle with sin makes us hungry not to exclude others but to obtain peace and acceptance with others. It also fulfills our sense of purpose in living, and He richly blesses us with power and significance among the children of God.
What studies have been done noting the benefits of marriage, could be applied to believers. Many married couples divide when experiencing disillusionment. People who live alone do not live as long of lives, do not have the benefit of pooling resources, do not benefit from someone striving for their happiness, experience higher stress, and do not have anyone to help monitor harmful ways. People who stay married are happier than people who live alone.
When someone makes an accusation, usual responses include apologies, making excuses or communicating "your side," or even attack or withdraw. The issue is never the issue. The best way to interpret what sounds like an accusation in our ears is to perceive it as an opportunity to establish greater understanding. It takes a long time for married couples to learn that they don't really know their spouse. I suspect that members of the Body take just as long to learn the same lesson.
Trust-Worthiness, a False Image
We all share in an never-ending quest to honor Christ in how we live, taking every thought captive as they say, or being careful to keep ourselves from traditions of men. Col. 2:6-10 says,
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
In the spirit of this scripture I make a proposal for examination, whether it would be in fact a tradition of men. Could it be that "trust-worthiness" has become our idol? I am compelled to ask, does our mind's edifice of what constitutes "trust" behave like an idol? Does it interfere with seeking oneness? John 17:20-21,
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
But Isn't Trust-worthiness Necessary?
What are your scriptural ideals of a person's trust-worthiness? I have a hunch it's solid stuff, great stuff. How do you use it? People use God-given materials to fashion false images, and good information can be used to keep people out. Trust-worthiness doesn't come from conforming someone to your own language, doctrine, or works. To this we go straight back to the gospel. A profession of faith in Jesus Christ is our Body. The only grounds for separation are the yeast(s) of legalism or licentiousness. We are all, just like marriage, members of one another. If one member hurts, all members feel it. We are a joint-venture regardless of whether we ignore or punish others, and it only returns these things back on ourselves. What's more, fruit-bearing abiders are those who've entrusted themselves to God and God to them (John 2:23-25, 14:21, 23). I think we all intuitively have grown up in the church dependent upon this being reality: If there ever was a man to whom I would entrust myself on sheer faith, it would be to one who genuinely knew and served God.
Setting our presuppositions aside, then, trust comes through knowing someone ongoingly. How can someone intervene gently for a sin or overlook a weakness, except by the intimate knowledge of how they were built? We learn of our friends' humanity only by growing closer. We don't learn from acts of escalation to keep out those who would share life. We don't learn from aloofness which runs down the clock to conceal true terms for peace and closeness. And we don't learn (as much) by sharing wonderful intimacy for awhile but pointedly revoking it if it doesn't suit our idealism.
Trust especially comes to those who are on-goingly known by God. No one becomes worthy of trust through conforming to another's idealism no matter how biblical. Such expectations are the building of earthly kingdoms.
Find your grid in scripture, but I've never seen a happy ending in God's doctrine where His people are "fine" while alienated by others or with God. His story comes to completion by restoring one another to a place of mutual ministry and rejoicing together. Let me point out three example grids off the top of my head:
- Job. Sure, Job accepted the truth of his insignificance repenting in dust and ashes. But the story did not come to a close till he was interceding for his pain-inflicting counselors.
- Romans 4-8. We're imputed righteousness and forgiven for sins in 4. But God isn't done explaining the gift till He explains that it works in Romans 8 like following His Spirit to put to death the deeds of the flesh and partnering actively with God as sons.
- John 4. The woman at the well could have been satisfied keeping the fountain for herself. Instead, unlike the unobservant apostles she naturally runs into the city to tell others - so that He who sows and she who reaps may rejoice together.
A negative example would be Jonah. God has the last word of the book, still pursuing Jonah with that bad attitude. We can assume that God and Jonah lived the rest of their lives that way - God inviting Jonah to abandon his thoughts of being separate from other believers (think Luke 18 (above) again). So: how can we trust someone who wants to join in, when they've wounded us and caused us disillusionment?
The Wounded One
There is a fine and highly disputed boundary between the wounded one and the disobedient (those who want to fail at becoming one with believers). It's okay to hurt. It's okay to hurt for a long time. But according to God's character a portion of healing is being sent by Him into the inward man. Similarly an outward portion of healing comes from the party who caused trust to collapse. If they are not taking outward approaches, we can be sure they are not taking them inwardly. How can I say such a thing? This gets to the very heart of God: while we were enemies, Christ died for us, that we through intimacy might be transformed. Bank on God for this. Then observe whether they feign confusion.
There are exceptions to this generalization. Some dear believers suffer from depression or a host of various chemical or mental disorders - I have a number of such friends myself. I know that there is honest effort when it comes to these issues, and it is a challenge to be "Christian" toward others. Until there is some vulnerability, those on the receiving end won't see how grace is helpful in situations. In any case, we ought to be prepared for weaknesses and handicaps in others. The weak are even more welcome into His presence, and I will testify that at least as far as I have seen God treat the weak, it has by no means marginalized their perfectly designed role in the Body.
The Challenge to Persevere toward Oneness
Where do we go when disillusioned with God's people? If we break off to be with those who are like ourselves, what reward will we get? We are no different from the greedy. Matt. 5:47,
And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?
Sects are common, but cults are worse. It is important to take a few basic notes on what cults do. They isolate members from family and friends - true relationships where they receive care outside of the protocol of the group. They foster disconnection from outsiders as a mainstay of their theological tenets. And in the case that someone leaves the group, relationships are radically cut off with rumors that aren't allowed a decent hearing to see if there's any truth to them.
His Kingdom is Desirous for Outsiders
The kingdom and its work isn't possessed by a few believers at the top who have learned how to use protocols like barbed wire and booby traps (thanks Charity). It belongs to whosoever loves Him. If there is a biblical fellowship, it isn't formed and gathered firstly on the pinnacles of hierarchy. The fellowship of God and God's people is down here, where people are gaining Christ. This is where God is alive, and this is where we share the same mind and heart together in the mutual venture we have in making disciples for Him (study the use of the word koinonia in the book of Philippians).
En-Trust to Build Trust
Accepting fellowship for what it is supposed to be and not for our false images, we will glorify Jesus Christ. Ushering and acknowledging others in the presence of Christ is the safest place we should herald them to be. In His presence there is hope that weaknesses and sins will be overcome. Do you hunger and thrist for this kind of reconciliation and commission, for any kind of person, with God? Then, upon this we have obtained "koinonia." Let us set off in the boat together with our Master.
No one is immune to the fellowship-choking path to sects and the building of earthly kingdoms. This includes me. I need someone to knock me in the head every once in awhile. Doesn't have to be any more elaborate than this, "I sense pride in you, so maybe you should think about it." Christian or unbeliever, it does not matter; I need massive help to avoid serving my own purposes (in the name of God, no less!). Even unbelievers hate pride--get some--they're very astute on shortsightedness in the church. As much as I operate in the flesh, I am going to let God down. If I really want to build God's kingdom, someone has to notice the difference between God in His grace and truth, and how I love to build my own kingdom. As much as I want it to be about me because I am in flesh, it's not. When I operate in the Spirit, I see God's generosity to truly be with you because of your abiding faith in Him. That's the happy ending, to marvel at God as One. Each believer has gifts absolutely essential to feed those who have come to His table so we may be edified to grow as one in the full stature of Christ (Eph. 2:19-22).
Genuine hunger for God's kingdom is demonstrated when believers entrust themselves to those who may seem like "outsiders" in seeking the same. That has been my foremost aspiration for the Body of Christ both online and offline. I am by no means the only one who feels this way for believers - I am in the company of greatness and a great many.
There is no flourishing with fragmentation. When Jesus was incarnated, it may have appeared as though He was alone. However, He did not come by Himself. This is the subject of the next blog post.