Behavior Modification – 1
A dear brother in Christ has been suffering for some time in a community of faith characterized more by law than by grace. Sometimes I wonder how do we avoid such a thing when it seems like, despite our rhetoric to the contrary, we insist on following all these rules. We claim the Word sets out all these standards for living, but why are we so hardline about translating all of this into a set of rules, something that makes logical and cultural sense and satisfies (in a worldly way) like the day we felt that urge for baptism?
Another brilliant theologian I have read, Scot McKnight (who is joining the faculty at Northern Theological Seminary – shameless plug great seminary that I attended with some awesome professors and now one more). He suggested the answer to this question may be right from the start – what question do we ask? When we read the Word, do we ask is this message one about how we are to be saved? Or is it really, who is this Jesus?
I spoke about this idea and there remains this pushback, what does all this really mean? I suppose one way of looking at all of this is to come to a place where we start to understand being a Christian isn’t about what we do but it is about who we become. And again I suppose those questions are springing up – what does that mean? Another academic, in looking at the Anabaptist tradition – surprising not dissimilar to the problems facing Lutherans! – puts it this way:
Stephan Dinteman points out the tendency in Anabaptism to adopt
a behavior-based discipleship. Discipleship is one-sided – it’s
all about us. Dinteman outlines the problem as follows: This
approach to the Anabaptist vision resulted in generations of
students and church leaders learning behavioural aspects of the
Christian faith without learning equally well that discipleship
is only meaningful and possible because it is an answer to who
God is and what God is doing
But here is the really hard part of all this. When I was speaking about this, a wise and perceptive member of our community asked how do we get there? I wish I knew! I wish I had the magic formula to getting there. But here goes, maybe some thoughts – or ramblings to be more precise.
1. Living. I know, isn’t there a quicker way? Sadly, not.
2. Really getting to the place of understanding it is about who we are becoming by and through the work of Jesus and not us. Paul clues us in when he talks about the conflict raging between the sinful nature and the Spirit, and concludes, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are NOT under law.” Galatians 5:18 (NIV) And Paul informs those crazy Corinthians, “we… are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV)
Because a sweetie I know told me these are too long, part 2 soon!
What do you think?
Be blessed and be a blessing.