The Dangers of Spiritual Privilege

If you haven't already found out, I'm been a Christ-follower ever since I was a small child, and have been around "organized religion" all that time as well. I firmly and wholeheartedly believe in the "Church"--God's vehicle to accomplish His purposes here on earth.

I was converted in the Church of Christ, and later filled with the Holy Spirit in the Church of God, eventually joining the Church of God of Prophecy where I was a member for almost 30 years.

I learned some wonderful lessons about the "church" while I was active duty in the United States Air Force. One of the most valuable lessons was that I can ill afford spiritual smugness. By "spiritual smugness" I am describing those situations where other Christ-followers may have differing ideas, viewpoints, and methods than I possess, and subsequently I view them as "less" or "inferior to" my way of thinking. I grew up in an environment where our "brand of religion" viewed itself as superior to all the other Christ followers who were not our "brand." I'm not sure this was ever intentional, but it was reality anyway.

God performed a marvelous deliverance in my life: I became acutely aware that other Christ-followers know and love the very same Saviour that I know and love. How did I find this out? God put me in a place where my "brand of religion" wasn't accessible or available.
I was specifically stationed in places where I would need to "give up my smugness" and learn how wonderful it is to live in community where I had to accept others as Christ accepts them.

I worshipped among the Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, and Nazarenes. I was active in the Navigators' military ministry, and in base chapel programs. I truly discovered that Christ redeemed wonderful, wonderful people all over the world. All different colors, shapes, sizes, and socioeconomic brackets. As my friend Naomi Ghandia would say, "A sheep is a sheep regardless of where they pasture."

Spiritual superiority (aka "smugness") doesn't wear well on Christ-followers. It doesn't look good on them at all. It's only by the grace and mercy of Christ that I have the privilege of following Him.

It's not by the type of music that I sing: hymns, choruses, or scriptures. It's not by the style of preaching that most appeals to me: lectures, passionate dialogues, or severe dramatic presentations. It's not whether I'm "seeker sensitive" or "something-else sensitive."

What truly matters is am I "Christ-sensitive." Am I looking to the Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to lead me, guide me, and redeem me? Or am I looking, as the Pharisees did, to my own "spiritual tradition" to guide me and connect me to God's people?

Spiritual traditions are important---as long as we honor and worship God the Spirit. He is the Spirit of Truth, and Christ Himself promised that He would indeed lead us.

And He knows where the dangers are. Maybe we should listen.

1 comment:

Lowell Brannen said...

I agree with what you are saying. I was born and raised in a Church of God parsonage and lived most of my life since then in a Church of God parsonage (except for 15 years in an Assembly of God parsonage). Over the years, I began to see that my "smugness" was wrong. I think I am doing OK accepting others, until I see something that totally goes over and beyond my "smugness". I then realize that I am still battling my many years of 'knowing what's right'. Eventhough I don't want it to be, it is still sometimes hard to accept some people.