Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Masks Modern Christians Wear

The life of and life in modern Christian churches, with all the dissensions, hatred and disunity is certainly shameful. That is not what Christians are called to, they are called to produce the fruit of the Spirit.
Fruit of the Spirit is the natural outcome of a Spirit-led life. It is characterisctic of a Spirit-filled life. The foremost of this is love (Gal 5:22). Though Paul listed love in Galatians 5:22 he best exposits it in his first correspondence to the church in Corinth. Love is the hallmark of Christ-disciples: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Three redherrings of true love are spirituality, charity and self-sacrifice" (John 13:35).
However, Christians tend to wear different masks that look like love which Paul criticizes very caustically in the great poem on love in 1 Corinthians 13. First of these masks is false spirituality. Christians who fail to love each other as Christ loved them tend to wear a mask of spirituality. This comes usually in the form of high spiritual gifts like, speaking in heavenly languages, prophecy, and claims of miracles. Even if these claims are true, they are useless unless they proceed from lives that are saturated with the love of Christ and is able to pour that love out to others. Such lives are lifeless as "sounding brass" or "claning symbols", makes noise but lifeless!
Second mask that they  use to cover their loveless lives is charity. To be at the service of the poor and needy is often considered as acts of love, but may not. I once saw a lady running after a begger to give him an apple from her shopping bag. It is evening, and her religion requires that she should do some good thing each day to earn merits before her gods. It is not really love that drove her but her own selfish spiritual interest. Christians need not be different, most social service need not be out of love, but fund-driven or for a good name in society. I don't intend to look down upon people who sacrifice for the poor out of genuine love.
Third mask is self-sacrifice. Pauls mentions the extreme self-sacrifice of letting oneself to be burnt at the stake (one of the means of persecution in early Christian period). Just because a person denies his body, chastises himself does not mean that s/he is doing it out of love. The Bible insists in this passage (1 Cor 13:3) that giving and even self-molesting for the sake of charity is useless if there is no real love.
Christians are expected to "serve one another in love" (Gal 5:13). For that we need to rip these mask off. Lack of love leads them to behave like animals who "bite and devour" each other (Gal 5:15). These two verses in Galatians which serve as introduction to the discussion on the fruit of the Holy Spirit in Gal 5:22-23 explains why so we face so much of disunity and hatred in modern churches.
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The Prodigal and the Party Pooper!

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