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Identity Theft

  

Leaving the particulars of a covenant aside for just a moment (we will return to it anon), this week I have been asking myself the following question and thought I’d share my ruminations: what does our being in covenant with God and with a body of believers mean for unity among the followers of Jesus Christ?

I was deeply impressed several years ago to see that the first command in the ‘practical” section of Ephesians concerns our behavior with each other: “…walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:1b-3 KJV italics mine) Implicit in this verse, of course, is the understanding that conflict is often what characterizes relations among men, even believers! We all know that fulfilling the requirements of this verse – in our families and in our churches – is a challenge at times. Indeed, at times we may even feel that the bond of peace will be enhanced by dividing with certain brethren over this issue or that.

What does our being in covenant with God inform us on this issue? One perspective is what N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham says. (Wright, by the way, is well known for looking at the New Testament afresh in light of its Jewish roots, especially the overarching biblical themes of God’s covenant, and his renewal of his creation, both now and in the coming kingdom.)

“…if justification declares that the believer is a member of the covenant community, that community itself is called to live as the family who accept one another in love. …The church is thus to be a living demonstration of justification by faith, in which each member is given by the whole community the security of acceptance not on the basis of who they are in human terms of race, class or colour, not on the basis of works, but simply because of shared faith in the risen Lord Jesus. Except in extreme cases of open and unrepentant sin (and then only because such sin is evidence of unbelief), we must not apply ethical tests as a basis for fellowship, particularly the little quasi-moral rules which are designed more to safeguard an insecure position than to promote genuine holiness. Justification provides all the security anyone needs: and the church is to be the community which will be secure enough to welcome into its fellowship all those who, however simply, and however naïvely or unclearly, share its faith…This is in no way to advocate doctrinal indifference. Precisely because I take doctrine, and particularly justification by faith, with the utmost seriousness, I long to see evangelicals, and the Church as a whole, becoming in this way a living embodiment of the Gospel.”

It is therefore of great importance of understanding the outlines of covenant – If God has found you to be in covenant with himself, I had better be careful before excluding you.

5 Responses to “Identity Theft”

  1. on 10 Jan 2007 at 3:29 amCash Reynolds

    Great topic Alex. Very important to think about.
    I have been excluded from fellowship for my unorthodox beliefs and have been excluded sometimes for my past sins, and maybe rightfully so, I don’t know.
    I also try to exercise wisdom in who I fellowship with and who I don’t. I have one true friend who seeks first the Kingdom whom I fellowship with. The other “Christians” I know worship a different God, preach a different gospel and do not live in obedience to God.(I go through periods of living in disobedience myself and I don’t have the excuse of having been taught wrong doctrine)
    So this one dear friend is a great blessing to me. To others that I preach the gospel to I can only invite them to “come see”. I look foreword to the day I meet someone hungry enough to “take” to the Kingdom message.
    I’ll be back to read your article again and for now, even though were somewhat limited over the internet I enjoy the fellowship that your blog affords us and I count it as a blessing. Thanks!

  2. on 10 Jan 2007 at 8:09 amSean

    Cash, it sounds like you suffer the same reproach as do all radical disciples of Christ and seekers of the coming kingdom. Where do you live? Maybe we know someone who lives near you that you could be encouraged by. Grace & Peace to you, brother. Hang in there, suffer well, and he who is coming will come.

  3. on 10 Jan 2007 at 1:44 pmCash Reynolds

    Sean, thank you for the encouraging words! I live in Eugene, Oregon
    and fellowship with and take council from Brice B. who is a mentor to me in Godly living and the pursuit of the coming Kingdom.
    I would love to meet with or correspond with any other believers that you may know in Oregon, or anywhere else for that matter.
    If anyone out here in Kingdomready blogland would like to talk and share in the things of God let me know and I’ll send you my email address 🙂 .

  4. on 10 Jan 2007 at 2:11 pmKaren

    “If God has found you to be in covenant with himself, I had better be careful before excluding you.”

    Indeed. And equally, “I had better be careful in refusing to fellowship with others because I don’t agree with every particular of their theology”. We can become so divided over points of doctrine or practice that we put ourselves in a position where we are able to carry out God’s work of showing love and mercy and forgiveness only within very narrow confines.

  5. on 10 Jan 2007 at 3:57 pmSean

    Cash, email me so I can find out your address and see if any of the Washington State people live near you. My email is sean@kingdomready.org.

    Karen, good points. We are dealing with people for whom Christ died. This is no small or trivial matter. We should strive towards unity, that’s what Jesus wants (John 17.20-23). Jesus was able to mix with all sorts of different people groups yet he never became corrupted.

  

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