Catacomb Resident Blog

A Place without Tension

11 March 2023

My previous post raised some questions and I will try to restate things more clearly.

Our existence in this fallen world cannot be perfected. No element of it will ever reach its potential. That's part of the Curse of the Fall. We are supposed to understand that it's not about achieving peace with God. It is about seeking peace with God.

Peace with God (i.e., shalom) is not an achievement. It's not a static place where you can live. Rather, it's God's will for you that you must chase down, because it keeps moving. He will never be content with what you accomplish in this life, and you should not be, either.

The essence of peace with God is in the striving. That was inherent in the message God gave Jacob in changing his name to Israel -- striving with God. It's a living thing, not something that remains the same any two moments in time. God is leading us along a path. We live as nomads in this life, always pitching our tents in new places, always exploring new areas of what He has granted us.

In theory, you could suggest that God's leading for any two of us should not have conflicts. Nice idea, but you'll never know for sure, because none of us is so capable of always knowing His will that we can test it. There is a sense in which we will never really know our convictions in our minds. That's because of the flaw in the human intellect; the mind is fallen. Our hearts know, but it always seems to get fouled a little by the time it lands in our heads. You will always make mistakes.

Given we should understand this much, we should expect that two people walking by their convictions will eventually part ways at some point. It serves no purpose at all to seek discernment of who is wrong, as if there could be objective truth. If there were such a thing as objective truth, none of us are competent to know. It's a bad concept; pointing fingers is inherently evil. The person doing the discerning is inevitably flawed, as well, so we end up having to do the best we can. We know that our best will always come up short. Thus, we take the position that, while we are sure something isn't perfect about our understanding, it's all we have. We must obey regardless of what any other human says.

As a byproduct of this, we can be sure that it will seem to us that God has given us conflicting demands. The friction is built in, a permanent feature of mortal existence. That is, there will always be cases in which what He demands of one through conviction cannot possibly be reconciled with what He demands of another through conviction. It is human linear logic that does not accept this, but our hearts know, if we could be troubled to listen. We cannot blame God; He is not the author of the confusion. But then again, we may not have any way to work this out without building in some distance.

The true meaning of the term "civility" is a set of habits, customs and procedures that allow us to coexist in close quarters without killing each other. This lore of operating together with this inescapable measure of conflict is what really matters more than almost anything else we do as a covenant community. The truly capable elder is one who knows better than to expect things to be simple and logical. Rather, this elder knows when to separate dueling members of the body without necessarily having to pass judgment on either one. Thus, the only real question is how far that separation must be. And if one must leave the community, then it will be based on which of the two is more consistent with the elder's convictions, not who is right.

This of course depends on whether the conflict arises from something rather clear from the Covenant Word. Once again, the clarity is at the discernment of the elder. He will defer some of this to the pastor, but the final decision is in the elder's hands. If any decision splits the body, that's just the way it goes. Sometimes there are some issues that will require taking one side or another, simply because that's the nature of things. The elder's convictions are a major element in any community, regardless of size.

This is inherent in the feudal nature of the Covenant. Every community must be feudal and tribal, or the whole thing is outside the Covenant in the first place. Thus, the decision to join any community is to measure the elder's convictions and decide whether the package as a whole is tolerable against the very real need for community. It's not a question of agreeing in detail with elder's convictions, but whether the situation is tolerable. This is what church discipline is all about: We all compromise and make sacrifices until we cannot. Then we move on.

The very notion that one person can know God's will for another is a deeply flawed concept that arises from the Boastful Pride of Life. It's the most fundamental issue of the Fall itself, the temptation to be our own god. Without the humility of some nagging self-doubt, you are inherently out of God's will. You must act one way or another, but you always make room for your decision to turn out poorly. It doesn't disqualify you from serving in any role; that humility is the first qualification.

The only place without human tension is the grave.

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