Saturday, August 13, 2016

We Live in the Habitation of Dragons

Isaiah tells us we live in the Habitation of Dragons, “And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls” [KJV].  Modern translators render the word for dragons as ‘jackals,” because they don’t believe that there are such things as dragons.

The translators have a harder time re-interpreting the New Testament Greek word, “drakon” as anything other than “dragon.” One primary text where the word “dragon” occurs is in Revelation 12:1-12 where the devil is depicted as a fiery red dragon who is cast down from heaven to earth by Michael and his angels. The Book of Revelation goes on to add, “woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

That is indeed the problem! Humankind tends to operate on the assumption that we live out our lives in a neutral zone where most of our spiritual struggles are with ourselves or with other people.

In reality the place where we live is a habitation of dragons, and in specific, one most unhappy dragon, the devil. This particular dragon has discovered to his chagrin that he is not as lofty, as beautiful, or as powerful as God. Not only that, but he has discovered, to his great wrath, that his time is short. In his wrath the dragon has resolved to rob everybody of the life, joy and vitality that he has lost himself when he was cast from heaven by Michael and the angels of God.

Some limitations of the dragon's ability need to be acknowledged; Unlike God, he is not Omniscient, Omnipotent, or Omnipresent. In plain language, he is a created being; he doesn't know everything, he isn't all-powerful, nor is he present everywhere.

Unfortunately for us the passage in Revelation tells us that when he was cast to earth in great wrath he took his “angels” with him. The New Testament refers to these entities as “devils,” “demons,” or as “unclean spirits.” What it means is that we play out our moral and spiritual struggles on an uneven playing field where unseen malicious enemies are doing their very best to make us as unhappy as they are. The old saying, “misery loves company” is remarkably true in this regard.

We actually live in the habitation of dragons.  St. Paul says, “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” On the other hand, living in paranoia and fear only serves the dragon and his fallen angels. James 4:7b also says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” John the Apostle adds, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4). Another way of putting it is in the modern proverb, “To be forewarned is to be fore-armed.” In Texas terms, if you are walking through a field with vipers in it, wear a good pair of cowboy boots. Watch where you are walking and keep your guard up.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Stop Enabling the Bred in the Bone Sinner

A Contribution From the Midnight Skulker

All of us within the Church wrestle with those who stubbornly refuse to respond to the truth of the Gospel.  Often these bred in the bone rebels against God claim the things of the Church as their own, even the very highest offices.  Anybody who has been through the long Lent of Church life has slammed up against the concrete wall of “entitlement” that is so often a mark of these claimants to the privileges of the children of God.  They often take the high road assuming a righteousness tinged with viciousness. 

Every church that has tucked some history under its belt, has experienced this problem.  Too often the vestibule of the church has a closet full of the robes of the Pharisees and Sadducees who still look for ways to crucify the Christ.  Of the traitorous, Sir Launcelot du Lake said, “Hard it is to take out of the flesh that which is bred in the bone” (Mallory).  What is needed is not just a heart transplant, but a bone replacement.  The very structure of their lives needs to be torn up, so that God in his grace can begin again.  They are the ruined pot on the wheel, and the Potter seeks to scrape them off the wheel, pound the lumps out of them, and reshape them one more time. 

The problem arises when those within the church, who perceive the reality of this challenge, say, “Bring out the dead.  Bring out the dead;” these bred in the bone rebels cry, “I’m not dead yet.  I’m not dead yet.  I’m feeling better.”  The true children of God then surrender to the sin of enabling.  We won’t risk rejection by confronting the hard impenitence of these fellow travelers.  Why?  Because these fellow travelers are relatives and friends, people we love, people in whom we have invested much, and people to whom are beholden, because we ourselves too often seek approval and applause. 

Making the modern parenting mistake, we fail to differentiate between acceptance and approval.  And instead we not only give them tacit approval by our silence, but elect them to our vestries, hire them on our church staffs, send them to seminaries, ordain and consecrate them, and make some of them as professors in our seminaries so that they can become teachers of the faith that they don’t really believe.  Unlike Archie Bunker we are reluctant to call a spade a spade, because that type of attitude seems loveless and judgmental. 

In our sweet and companionable righteousness we are more righteous than the Christ himself, who says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.  So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27-28). 

If it is not only that, it is also another thing; the pathological tendency to over-identify with the bred in the bone sinner.  Out of false humility we cry, “You! hypocrite lecteur!--mon semblable!--mon frère!”[1]  and thus fail ourselves to see that we are the broken hearted tender children of God. 

Here is a prayer that reflects true penitence and a love as tough as Christ himself: “Break their hearts O Lord, that You may enter in!” 

Will they change?  Not if we can help it!  It is time to stop bowing to the children of the world within the Church and press on unafraid, with our hearts on fire for God.

[1] You! Hypocrite reader! my likeness, my brother! (T. S. Eliot, The Wasteland).