Moral Authority: Vitamins for the Body of Christ
Imagine a basketball game where people whack each other until they’re bleeding, and there’s no authority in place to intervene and stop the nonsense. Imagine a hospital where people in the waiting room are mutilating themselves with knives and banging their heads against each other, as the medical staff looks on and commends them for their open mindedness.
Such is the state, I fear, in many churches around the world. In our legitimate desire to make church a safe place for exploration, discovery, conversation, grace, and understanding, I would argue that it is possible to go too far; possible to become a community whose only basis of fellowship is our use of the word Jesus – and even that name becomes meaningless because the real person attached to the name is perceived in so many different ways that he has come stand for both war and peace, indulgence and abstinence, and so much more that is contradictory.
While it’s clear that we need grace, and it’s clear that we can’t know everything with certainty, it’s also clear that to say one belongs to a community means, in some sense, that you share in the basic convictions of that community. If the community is a church, you’re saying that you share the basic convictions of Christ – at least as interpreted by that community of faith. I would argue that every church has the obligation to stand for the things they believe Christ stands for – and to do so in a sense that creates some accountability. This doesn’t mean a lack of grace and it doesn’t mean that the church is trying to become some sort of ‘sin-free’ zone. But it does mean that if I am willfully disregarding the ethic of the community and someone points it out – and I absolutely refuse to respond – then I am declaring that I’m not, in the truest sense a part of this family. I can visit – but I can’t really be a part.
Sounds harsh? It seems that the alternative leads to the church becoming nothing more than a reflection of the world in which we live: same greed – same indulgences – same addictions – same broken relationships. There’s more to the Christian life than just having an ethical structure; much more. But there IS an ethical structure, and when that structure is ignored, Christ’s body becomes anemic. In absence of action or authority, I fear that this anemia is inevitable.