Friday, 18 October 2013

Sweetness and strength - the Christian combination

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I think Christianity is supposed to display both sweetness and strength, which combination is the consequence of love; as shown in human affairs by a good mother or father with respect to their children - but this is a difficult combination for an institution to sustain.

Few churches have succeeded steadily in achieving this combination; but temptation lies in both directions, and even the best churches oscillate around the optimum.

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Liberal Christians (as individuals, not the leadership) often display sweetness, warmth of heart, kindness and breadth of welcome - but they are weak, and easily and rapidly conform to secular world, cease being Christian, then switch to being anti-Christians, who feel good about themselves while serving the enemy.

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But hazards lie in the other directions too - in pursuit of strength Christians may become ultra-correct, hard-line; they fall into extreme narrowness, harshness, legalism, pedantry; they cease to be loving and starting enjoying hatred and punishment. Thereby they cease to be Christian but begin to work against it: they, too, have switched sides.

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There are those who are repelled by the unloving harshness of the hardliners who soften their Christianity down to nothing or its near-opposite; and there are those who are repelled by the sentimentality of Liberals who harden their Christian practice into something which will reject and/or persecute any real (that is, loving) Christian.

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In sum, there is no institutional formula for avoiding both weakness and harshness - and any formula designed to avoid the one will tend to encourage the other, and also provoke a backlash; and this is a fact of life because there is no formula for love.

But love is real - or at least potentially so.

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I don't think this is theoretical - I think it is a real problem.

In the modern West the churches, and the variation within churches, do generally seem to be too-far in one or the other direction: mostly sweet, broad and submissive; but with other parts of Christianity tending too much toward the harsh, narrow and bossy.

We need the discernment of the heart to find churches that are truly both sweet and strong: a combination only possible when motivated by love. 

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