I have been reading through The Ragamuffin Gospel (by Brennan Manning) since a certain person asked for my opinion on it. Why my opinion is wanted I am sure I don't know, but anyway I'm reading it. I was a little bored by it at first but am finding it more interesting now. I may have more to say on it later, but for now this quote stood out to me:
"There was too much light and truth in Jesus. His word, 'You will know the truth and the truth will make you free' was intolerable. The elders decided that men and women simply were not capable of being free; so the Church ascribed to itself the protection of souls entrusted to it, only to dispense it when absolutely necessary. Ordinary people could not endure the burden of freedom, so the Church took it away from them for their own good. They would only abuse and misuse it anyway. Delivered from the anxiety and torment of personal decision and responsibility, people would feel safe and happy in obedience to authority." (taken from chapter 8,
Freedom From Fear)
I realize that this is mainly referring to the Catholic Church, however, I think this has been going on in Protestant churches as well, though maybe not as formally. It also reminds me of some of what I've read about 'heavy shepherding', but more generally it describes what happens when leaders in any church decide it is not safe to trust God so they must add rules or law back into the church. And it is very true that many 'ordinary' people feel safer with this kind of authority. We do not like to trust fully and only in the Spirit of God for our assurance of salvation, but we are so racked with fear of man that we can't move a hair without assurance of the approval of whoever we consider more spiritual or better than ourselves. I think that I have mentioned before that legalism and fear of man go hand in hand. There are only two ways to live life: pleasing God or pleasing man. Though sometimes man is pleased as we please God, God is not pleased as we live to impress man. I am experiencing in my life at this time the greatest freedom from fear of man I've ever had. And I don't mean that I don't fear man at all, but I fear God far more than I used to.
Yet, I am painfully aware that I am like a leaf being carried every which way on the wind, more subject to the elements than I like. But if that wind is the Spirit of God, then who am I to complain if the rain or hail or snow or hot sun rib and tear and pummel me? Do I not still belong to the wind? Will I not go where he takes me and nowhere else?
"For God, who said, ' Let light shine out of darkness, " Made his light shine in our hearts to give us light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." (2 Corinthians 4:6-10)
While I am not so prone to the violent earth-shaking debilitating depression that I once was, I am still weak. I can easily descend into a kind of apathetic and cold disposition toward God and life in general, all the while laying the blame at the feet of some 'other' in my life. It truly always comes down to me and God. Do I really trust him? Do I really know who he really is? Do I really know who I really am compared to him?
Living life by any outward set of rules or behaviour is far easier to do than to be honest about what's really going on in our head. We avoid being questioned and bothered by self-righteous fools or even by well-intentioned friends. That's why I've always admired extremely honest people. They are the bravest ones, and the people I think will be rewarded by true intimacy with God. That's the kind of person I think I am, but it is good to see that I am not so profoundly honest as I think I am. I can talk the talk as good as the next guy ( or girl). I know how to sound humble or wise or good. But there's a world of difference between sounding like I'm humble and actually being humble. If I'm really living to please God, I might want to pay a little more attention to the things no one but he can see.
On a side note, I think the what is missing from this book so far, is any reference or understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit to reveal grace to us and accomplish the Father's will in our lives. There is much love and power to be forgiven, but not so much to go on living in grace, if I haven't misunderstood. Also , I haven't finished reading it yet, so I will probably come back to this later.