Monday, November 28, 2011

Playing God, Part I

Do you watch many movies? If so, I'm sure you can come up with a list of your favorite actors/actresses at a moments notice, or maybe even your favorite director. When it comes to historical movies, for example, I've watched many interviews where the actor or actress will describe their process for "getting into character" and sometimes they even talk about the hours they put in trying to prepare for a particular role. The pressures and standards they are held to seem to be higher when they try to represent a person out of history, especially a well-known figure.

Yet Christians do the same thing everyday, whether they know it or not. People who know little about Jesus (or maybe are turned off by the church) will likely consider any believer to be a representative whether they feel like being one or not. As a representative, however, it can sometimes be easy to fall into the trap of substituting ourselves in God's role instead of pointing people back to God himself. Unfortunately, there are usually a lot of drawbacks to "playing God" instead of pointing people to God. In a sense, instead of being a signpost we end up becoming a stop sign.

It seems like people are always looking for a physical representation of God in some form or another, even to the point of creating their own representation and turning the created item into an object of worship. Some preachers also like to substitute their own philosophies or even their own representations of the Word in place of what the Word actually says. It's difficult enough that we are imperfect representations of the real deal, but when a preacher puts their own spin on the Word to make themselves feel better or even in a sincere effort to make someone feel better, the results can be long lasting and in some cases devastating.

None of this is new, however. This type of thing happened in the Old Testament era, and can be found in the Corinthian church. Consider I Corinthians 1:12-13 (NKJV):
"Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?"

In verse 17 Paul adds (NKJV):
"For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect."

Here Paul can see several divisions within the early church already appearing, and instead of pointing people back to himself, he steps out of the way and points them back to Christ. This is a tough task because it's tempting to take credit for a great message. I've heard innumerable stories over the years, too, though, of where a person stopped going to church because of something a pastor said to them. Usually this was because the person was dealing with a stressful or tragic situation and needed answers. It's difficult, however, for a pastor to know where a person is coming from sometimes when approached with such questions. Even if they do know, it doesn't mean that's what God would say in that instance.

Next Monday, I'll cover more on this topic and look at some ways that we can get out of the way.

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