Catacomb Resident Blog

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19 January 2023

If your witness for the Lord is confined to advertising and "soul-winning" blather, you have accomplished nothing good.

Interesting word, "trappings". I believe it originally referred to the decorative coat people used to put on war horses while they were in the stable. It eventually became a general term for decorative apparel that marked one as belonging to something or another.

How often have you spotted some peculiar Christian group in places like Walmart because they wear trappings that are just a bit short of being a uniform? Does it remind you of depictions of the Pilgrim settlers? That's the English folks who had already fled persecution in their own land to hide out in the Netherlands, and then came here to escape the relentless secularism (and drunken bawdiness) of the Dutch. They came wearing the period costume of Dutch middle class city folks. And I'm sure you've at least seen photos of various Orthodox Jewish groups with weird costumes dragged forward from previous centuries in one particular geographic place.

There's nothing in the Bible requiring a uniform or peculiar trappings like that. Indeed, no passage even so much as encourages folks to carry around the symbol of the Cross. As it is, there are three major different versions of it, and none of them bears much resemblance to the original equipment Imperial Rome used to crucify criminals. In case you are wondering, research indicates that they built a minimal frame left in place, and the victims carried only a single crossbeam the place of execution. The nails went through the wrists, and through the heel bones on either side of the upright post, because any other placement would not support the weight.

Oh, and the "Crown of Thorns" was just a spiky shrub (achanthus) to mock the idea of Roman laurel crowns. The "thorns" (actually, spiky leaves) weren't really the point, just an added annoyance. The point was the stinky greenery that parodied the common laurel plant bigshots wore because the fragrance was supposed to sharpen the mind.

Do you see how easily we get lost from the original story? It's not just missing the point; it's the fallen instinct for gilding the lily -- trying to enhance something that is already beautiful in its natural state. The enhancement is typically polar; it goes to either extreme suffering or ostentatious luxury.

The original teaching in the New Testament about raiment was to avoid that very thing. Stop trying to get attention through either extreme displays of piety or wealth. Whether you had the money or not, no one should know either way. It was an effort to deny the flesh by avoiding either extreme. It's rather like the preppers and survivalists and their "gray man" image: Don't stand out. That is, a shallow manifestation of faith indicates a shallow faith.

The only thing that should distinguish you as a Christian is the stuff people seldom notice without some kind of interaction. Even kindness can be regulated into a uniform, made into some kind of false-front discipline instead of a natural expression of who we are. Kindness is not an actual command (except within the Covenant community); it's merely a general expression of our divine nature to others. It does not prevent you defending yourself or others, even with violence, if that's appropriate. The issue is to be aware of the context and try to remain as peaceful as the situation allows. Rules cannot be made to fit all occasions; the goal is being so in touch with your convictions that you always know what to do.

We don't manifest true faith with a Jesus Frisbee. Stop putting "evangelistic" bumper stickers on your car. Stop waving denominational symbols. Be a gray man or woman, because the only way you can witness is how you actually deal with people personally in the every day encounters of life.

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