There were many times in my life when I wished I had a brother. Someone who knew genuine masculinity and sought to challenge me to pursue it. Someone who understood what it meant to push the limits of the envelope. When my sisters wanted to play "tea party" and demanded I participate, I wished I had a brother. When my sisters would dress the cat up and I wanted to don camouflage and liberate it from it's insidious torturers, I wished I had a brother. When there were birthday parties with numerous giggling girls chattering on until the wee hours of the morning, I wished I had a brother. When my sisters were chasing me down to put headbands on me like some comedic doll to accessorize, I wished I had a brother. I learned to hide headbands.
Forgive me ladies, I do not mean to ostracize you today. I am thankful for my wife and the many ways in which she is beautifully feminine. I celebrate how she pursues adopting the persona of the Proverbs wife and the numerous ways in which she has succeeded. It is a challenge and a blessing to pursue treating her with Christ's gentleness and love. May He and she forgive me for the many ways I fail. I am thankful for my sisters. They have taught me much in life outside of my distaste for headbands. I am thankful for my mother. Her love and generosity is a profound reflection of Christ's.
But I really wish I had a brother. Even more so today than when I was growing up.
Our world has changed. The modern church has changed. We live in a day when it is considered a sin to admonish one another, even in love. Our sense of American individualism has trumped the call to the communal life that our God has given us. Oh, we go to church and sit in the seats and sing the songs and pray the prayers. We partake of the table and then trivialize the entire process. We justify the ritualism we have embraced in the church by claiming the grace of God. (Praise God for His grace!) We seem to have forgotten the fear of God. For no sooner have we been partakers in the gift of fellowship, than we go back to our homes and indulge in the distractions of life.
Entertainment has become the dominant driving force in our lives. I could indulge in the plethora of forms we use to distract ourselves, but I think "entertainment" is more than sufficient. This is the American idol. We are no different than Rome with her Coliseum. We have pushed escapism through media to the point that we have difficulty identifying ourselves in community without it. We associate by what we watch, hear, and play through our modern and not-as-modern (de)vices. So much so that we don't know the names of our physical neighbors. And we slip into complacency. Complacency is the breeding ground for sin. Stagnancy is a symptom of being separated from that Godliness to which we were called. And then when someone points out that we are stagnant and complacent, we run and hide in our distractions.
Perhaps that is a significant part of human nature, but when the fellowship of the Church gathers and perpetuates it, we find ourselves in a real struggle. The modern church is constantly evaluating itself on its ability to entertain. We evaluate our "church experience" on the enjoyment of the music. We drown out the congregation with worship teams that strive for greater and greater "professionalism". We seek an emotional high and then ascribe spirituality to the significance of what the service has done for us, its ability to make us smile, applaud, laugh, and cry. The funny jokes the pastor used. How nice and religious the choir sounded. It's a pale comparison to the true fruit of the Spirit.
Then it takes a turn for the worse. We as a Christian society become so fixated on pursuing that emotional high that we disdain anyone who detracts from the "positive" experience. The feeling must not be interrupted! Anyone who does so is a dissenter and must be silenced! Iniquity is tolerated within brotherhood because to do otherwise would show a lack of "love" and be placing "judgment" on others. We are quick to defend our iniquity with Christ's words, "Judge not, lest you be judged."
But since when did Christ indulge iniquity? Did Jesus say to the woman found guilty of adultery who the crowd brought to Him, "Go, and worry not for the perpetuation of sin in your life, for you are no longer accountable for your sins?" No! He said, "Go and sin no more." So many read the passage in Matthew 7:1-5 and reference it to protect themselves from confronting their own sin, but they seem to have forgotten Matthew 18:15-20; Ezekiel 3:18-19, 1 Corinthians 5:9-13. Jesus said to remove the plank out of your own eye so that you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's. Judgment and admonishment are not the same. We are not to avoid admonishment.
And yet this pervasiveness of avoiding confrontation is found throughout our "modern Christianity". We have diminished the fellowship; watered it down to tastelessness. We have become bland and tepid. All for the fear of being seen as unacceptable in this life, this world. We so strive for popularity such that we avoid true fellowship. We run and hide away from deep, personal relationships with the body of Christ, His Church. We have become, "of the world."
I long for a different day. A day when we can be open and honest about ourselves such that we can be straightforward with one another. I long for brotherhood. Those who aren't afraid of accountability. Those who put on true masculinity, the kind of masculinity that confronts itself and doesn't shy away for the sake of self-preservation. The kind of accountability that boldly proclaims the purchase of the Lamb; that we are not our own.
"In daily, earnest living with the Cross of Christ the Christian loses the spirit of human censoriousness on the one hand and weak indulgence on the other, and he receives a spirit of divine severity and divine love." -Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
How can we trust ourselves to bear each others' sins for accountability's sake if we can't hold ourselves to the concept of accountability? If you are incapable of receiving correction and instead choose to indulge in iniquity, how can I trust you to hold me accountable to my iniquities?
For how do I know, if you choose to indulge the sinful nature, that my sins will not be used to justify your own? How can I trust you to not turn them against God?
I do not desire accountability in order to obtain a feeling of self-righteousness or as vindication for my own sins. To do so would be sin. The fact that I embrace a high standard of accountability should in itself prove that I desire to be held accountable.
But I am also not seeking an accomplice in perpetuating sin!
I am not seeking brothers who will condone my actions in order to justify their own!
I am seeking mighty men of valor who shamelessly don the armament of Christ and turn fearlessly to face their sin and stamp it out for the testimony of our Savior!
There is a Light in this world. In Him is no darkness. We stand at the perimeter of this Light, dancing timidly at the outskirts of righteousness. This Light will not tolerate darkness for He has already paid the price for our sins so that He may obliterate them from our personhood. To step into the Light will require exposing our true nature so that we might submit it to Him in service to His divine will.
Do we then remain stagnant in the shadows in order to preserve our individualism, our false sense of ownership to identity? Or do we step into His light in submission to the price He paid to cleanse us and make us His? Will you step into the light of Godliness which is true Christianity with me? Will you help me to expose all darkness and eradicate it before His light?
Can we be brothers?
© 2011 Seth Alan Jackson
© 2011 Seth Alan Jackson