Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Laodiceans

Since last Sunday’s sermon I’ve been thinking about the letter to the Laodiceans. My wife grew up among the Brethren and we spent six years when we were first married going to a Brethren assembly. Most of them read the seven letters of Revelation as seven eras of the church, with Laodicea as our present era, the final one before Christ’s return.

I don’t go for this entire prophetic system – it’s way too forced – but it’s an interesting insight into our current age. We are lukewarm, neither one thing nor another.

I think the current debate about climate change is a great example of how this happens. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change represents the majority opinion amongst climate scientists, that global warming is happening and is caused by human-generated pollution. Governments try to act on this understanding, but there are plenty of dissenting voices, saying there is no global warming, or it's caused by something else, or it's way worse than the scientists say. Those of us who don’t know much about climate science are confused, and it’s tempting to just throw up our hands in despair and do nothing.

So many areas of our lives are like this – theology, social policy, health, international relations. We’re in an era where critical thinking and debate are the norm, where we have access to vast amounts of information and opinion. It’s hard for us to make up our minds about most things. How can we return to our first love and stop being lukewarm about everything?

The Brethren answer to this (along with so many other fundamentalists) is to block out the dissenting voices. They proclaim their point of view loudly, silence opposing views, and live in apparent confidence of their rightness.

This never worked for me. I couldn’t un-know what I knew. I couldn’t silence the questioning voice inside me. I’ll never be a member of a Brethren church again. So what to do?

I don’t think I really have the answer (of course!) but I think the closest I have come to it is to allow the questions and doubts to keep me humble. Not that I really am very humble, but I know I should be. The Lord says “you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked”. Our inability to know and to understand is just one aspect of this – it’s what shows us that we are not gods. So we need to come before God in this humility, and we need to show that same humility and love to our fellow humans. All men will know that we are Jesus’ disciples if we are able to love like this.

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