Swinging from the Vine / 791 posts / 2,698 comments / feed / comments feed


I had this awesome narrative post half completed and I lost it all! I’m very pissed off. So here’s the crux of what I was going to say.

I think that the western evangelical church has a tendency to focus on behavior modification in the area of discipleship and spiritual development because those are the things we can see and have some semblance of control over. The deeper issues of the heart that are actually more important to God and actually drive our behaviors aren’t even usually on our radar because we can’t see them and they take much more time and trust to address.

I think another reason for this has to do with our history that rests heavily in the holiness movement. Along with that, we are very impatient and also a bit prudish in the way we treat each other. In other words, those external behaviors are annoying and embarrassing and we’d rather clean people up first so everyone can feel comfortable having them in their community.

Part of this is that I wonder if we need to evaluate how we define “Christ-likeness”. Is it really those things that we tend to focus on? (the little superficial behaviors that are maybe annoying or obnoxious or even a little dysfunctional) Or does holiness have more to do with issues of justice and kindness and mercy and other behaviors that reflect better the heart of God?

This is not at all to say that we should ignore the surface behaviors (esp. in areas that are destructive to self or other), I just question if it’s really what we should address when we first begin relationships with people.

[tags]holiness, Christ followers, discipleship[/tags]


  1. Adrian — February 26, 2007 #

    So, I can’t dance or play cards but I can pick my nose?

  2. Ari — February 26, 2007 #

    only if people can’t see it

  3. Paul — February 27, 2007 #

    that out of sight rule goes for your dancing too, adrian!

  4. Paul — February 27, 2007 #

    that is soooooo annoying Ari. And it always happens to the really good posts that have been beautifully crafted too

    I read something recently in McLaren’s secret message of Jesus that i thought is very much about this - Brian references the sermon on the mount and quotes Jesus as saying that unless your rightousness exceeds that of the scribes and the pharisees you won’t get into heaven. Everyone knew that these guys prided themselves on being the righteous elite but Jesus then goes on to say, look these guys say don’t kill but i say don’t even get angry and if you have upset a brother or sister don’t prioritse your religious acts prioritise making up. The pharisees say don’t commit adultery but i say deal with the lust in your heart that leads to adultery etc…

    In other words the pharisees and scribes were focussing on managing the externals - don’t do wrong things and ignoring the internals. Or as Jesus puts it if you follow the logic of the scribes/pharisees to avoid wrong doing you might as well start lopping off body parts to avoid the risk of sinning - after all better to loose a hand or an eye right than risk them causing you to sin - in my case i’ll make it into heaven a headless eunuch but at least i won’t have done wrong things…

    Jesus seems however to think that is missing the point and comes back to your point that it is not so much managing the externals but an inner transformation of the kingdom of God that shapes/confronts/changes our values, thoughts, motivations etc.

  5. Ari — February 27, 2007 #

    really good points paul - all the way around :)

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