Our unfortunate propensity
As a Christian to a Western culture, I can speak from experience of a difficulty many of us in the church have with a need held in the necessarily non-Western attributes of Christianity (speaking of its origins) to be a-categorical in our ‘pastoral’ efforts. (I place the word in quotes because I speak not specifically of Pastors but more of our general relation to individuals in a way which hopefully seeks to be edifying.)
If I can elucidate: I have only lately come to the clear realisation that we in the West, particularly through our educational system, have a propensity to categorisation and sectionalisation which, we ought really to find, sucks the life sometimes from whatever articles may be under question – physical or metaphysical. While it may be argued that this is too much a ‘generalisation’ of our complex Western epistemologies, I think it not unnecessarily so. The breakdown may be seen obviously on the social strata of race and class which have each had their bloody wars in our recent history due to the consequent prejudice that finds place in the psychology of one tier over the other.
It may also be seen in much of our academic literature which forever seems to be seeking the proper breakdown of another’s argument as a means to understanding it, and then to establish it’s own proper structure for equal and sometimes prevailing clarity over another’s propositions.
It is recognised too in our business structures, established entirely upon the latest devised models which are in turn based upon sectioned research, providing companies only with formulae for management principles, market trends, customer service, and a host of other attributes – all probably admitting with regret that not every business transaction will fall within the boundaries set in such models. But to such models we must adhere lest we fall behind in the economic rat race.
I do not wish for this to be a polemical against Western post-Enlightenment reason (though I make no apology if some of the shades of my feeling emerge in the above examples). For sure a bit of categorisation is often beneficial toward the progress of certain ventures in life.
But I am concerned that we Christians do not continue with such a tendency into our relationships and our kingdom-church life. Over the last four and a half years of my growth in the Lord I have increasingly discovered through experience that the way the Lord would have us deal with issues and people is anything but categorical. Note how in three specific accounts in the Gospels of His healing a blind man, each records a different ‘method’. Note also how He confessed that He only did what He saw His Father doing in John 5. His only model, offensively, was relationship. Relationship with God, and with people.
I think we know this a little bit in the church, but it makes us uncomfortable when it comes to our day-to-day application because it requires something of us that we don’t have without asking the Lord for it and having to exercise faith. (‘We’ being the general rather than the total.)
As indicated in the example of Jesus, relationship in the life of God requires by necessity seeing and hearing, communion, contact. What earthly relationship is there in which we do not have speaking, hearing, seeing contact? At the very least one of these attributes must be in place to classify relationship.
And so in our engagement with people in the life of God I believe we must be seeking to be more and more prophetic in our helping deal with issues and work through situations. This makes us nervous probably because we are still not familiar with how to use the prophetic practically. And because of our cultural position, we crave the right model, the best method, for dealing with these things. But can we step out in faith? Can we dare to say, “Lord speak”? Every individual has individuals needs and issues, personal histories unique only to them, and deserve treatment corresponding in its nature. I believe we in the church can offer this, if we will exercise ourselves to think outside of the box in this matter. The answer is not one overriding model, it is a push for diversity of method and even abstraction from method in favour of hearing from God and thereby strengthening our emphasis on the only true ‘model’ – relationship.
“‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WILL ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF.'” (Matthew 22:37-39)