Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Circus: Elephants Entertain

Watching these elephants stand on their hind legs against one another was certainly fascinating and one of those "Wow" moments in the circus, but it was also -- well -- unnatural.  I squirmed just a bit in my seat as I watched them put through their paces.  It just seems undignified for these massive, amazing and regal animals to be treated like little trained dogs. 

Even so, I think maybe these elephants like performing in the circus.  I'm definitely not a PETA person and I assume these elephants are well-cared for, so the fact that I didn't feel comfortable watching this act didn't mean it was wrong.  There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that I'm totally unaware of and who am I to judge the rightness or wrongness of these actions?

It made me think about how we as Christians too frequently judge one another regarding all sorts of things.  I'm reminded of Christ's warning in John 7:24 when He said, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."

One particular issue I see judged in the Christian community is what I call the method of conducting a Sunday morning worship service.  There have been churches that have split in two over the kind of music and instruments to use in church, as well as the degree of formal versus casual.  God gives wisdom and guidance to those who earnestly seek his path.  If a church is seeking God and seeking to glorify Him, then I believe their method of worship will reflect that and they should not be judged by other Christians who may disagree with their methods.  As long as the message (of the gospel) remains the same, methods could and should be changed over time.

Christians -- well-meaning, godly Christians, sometimes think that Christian thought, behavior and ways of worship should remain the same century after century, decade after decade, and that any veering from that old way of worship must be wrong, it must be caving into the world.  That’s just not true.

We should remind ourselves of how Jesus turned the status quo religion of His day upside down and changed methods that had been in the rule books for thousands of years.  Would anyone suggest He was wrong?  The religious leaders of His day certainly judged Him as wrong, when in reality He was right (of course He was!  He is God!) and they were wrong.

Newer methods can and do draw hearts to God, both in salvation and greater worship.  The thing is, that just as in olden times, the key to valid, meaningful and obedient service is the right relationship with God.  This is always the key which unlocks whatever method God chooses to reach a particular person or people group – at a particular time in history.
Even in the New Testament era there were new beliefs that veered from what God had required of the Jews in the Old Testament.  Now, circumcision was no longer required and even rejected to an extent.  Also, foods that had been unclean and forbidden were now accepted.  Peter had preached against eating certain unclean meats all his life and fully believed in what he had been taught and indeed, what was in the scriptures at the time.  In all sincerity he preached that it was wrong to eat such meat and he "judged" those who did so.  It took a vivid vision from God to change Peter's outlook on right and wrong in this situation.  The vision also included the mandate to reach the Gentiles and that they could be saved just as fully as the Jews could be.  The Gentiles were now included in God's repentance -- this too was a major change.  1 Corn 8:1-13-Paul / Peter in Acts 10:9-17 and 11:4-18

I'm sure it was hard for Peter to suddenly change his beliefs -- beliefs that had been ingrained in him since infancy, but he did and even embraced those changes, saying, "If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?" Acts 11:17.

Indeed -- who are we to withstand God or question His methods for reaching the lost?  We need to embrace God-given change and we need to obey the words of our Lord when He said, "Judge not that you be not judged" Matthew 7:1.


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