Sunday, September 06, 2020

Semi-Random Musings (21)

Most of our readers would not be aware that I have been at the office almost non-stop these last few weeks as a consequence of a plethora of COVID-related staff absences. That’s not because even a single employee of hundreds across the globe has contracted the coronavirus — so far as I know, they are all healthy as horses — but because almost nobody currently working from home has any enthusiasm about returning to work in the current environment, and the corporate powers that be are even less enthusiastic about ordering them to do so. The vast majority of my co-workers seem content to hunker down in their basements doing not too much of anything until sometime in Spring 2021.

Yeah, sure … that’ll be the end of it. Right.

Anyway, it has made for a very busy month for me, as there are certain job tasks which cannot be performed remotely, as well as many which can be performed much more quickly and efficiently by one or two people working low-tech with this rather useful product you may remember from your long-distant youth. If I recall correctly, it was harvested from dead trees …

I’m also beginning to wonder what effect, if any, this lengthy period of “virtual church” will have on our gatherings. It is evident many of my fellow believers feel the same way my co-workers do: “Thanks, we’ll just stay here on the couch and join you at the margins of your flatscreen for the foreseeable future.” Then there are those who are hungry to be back with the people of God in person and will accept no substitute. I am in the latter category. It has been nice to enjoy so many videos of solid Bible teaching I would not have come across without having them force-fed to me, but I want to worship in a building full of warm bodies.

From all appearances, our multi-tiered secular authorities would like to make state intrusion on church life the new normal. All believers need to think seriously about what degree of government involvement in the affairs of Christ we are prepared to accept.

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During my enforced period of slightly-reduced blog involvement, Immanuel Can, my co-conspirator in thoughtcrime and fellow barista at this-here little internet cafĂ©, has really been pounding out the posts. I wanted to take a few lines to expand a very little bit on some of the thoughts he raised earlier this week in his reply to a reader about how Christians make choices. If you haven’t read it, you can find it here.

IC began by pointing out that not all choices are black and white, or even black, white and gray. Some are, and some are not. Most biblical choices exist between points on a spectrum, with absolute diabolic evil at one end, moral excellence at the other, and a whole bunch of places in between.

If we are paying attention, the language of scripture itself directs us to this conclusion. In this morning’s Bible reading, I could hardly miss the fact that the apostle Paul finishes his instruction to the Corinthian believers about making use of their spiritual gifts to build one another up with these words, “And I will show you a still more excellent way.” Here the choice is between doing something quite good and doing something even closer to perfect. Both choices are quite moral, but one is preferable. That’s a lovely place to be in our choice-making, isn’t it?

Other terms of comparison related to choice are found in our New Testaments as well. The Lord Jesus himself talked about choosing between two very unpleasant outcomes: cutting off one’s limb, or being cast into the fire. Neither option is terribly appealing, I think you will agree. Deliberately disfiguring the image of God is not normally something we consider a moral act, but when set against the possibility of eternal damnation? Hand me the hacksaw …

Again, in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul teaches that “it is better to marry than to burn”, but better still to exercise self-control and serve Christ without distraction. Three points on the spectrum, not just two. Later, in Philippians, he speaks of the difficult choice between fruitful labor in the flesh, which he calls “necessary”, and departing to be with Christ, “for that is far better”. (Most of us don’t get to make this sort of choice, but Paul speaks of being “hard pressed” in deciding.)

The point is that these choices are not strictly between good and evil, or even between good, evil and morally neutral. They are between points on a spectrum, and our choices are much more enjoyable whenever those points are clustered at the positive end.

The Christian life, then, invites us to choose between safety and personal risk, between the good and the best, between painful-and-profitable and painless-and-less-profitable, and between many other places on the spectrum of choice, some of which have been fixed in place for us by our previous choices.

These are not simple matters resolved with a coin flip, and both general discernment and a good degree of self-knowledge help in arriving at a place where we can move forward knowing we are making the best move possible given our particular circumstances, which are bound to be different from one believer to the next.

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