Friday, December 7, 2012

"A Secret Society?"

  •  By Tony Harriman  

Usually, when you think of the term "Secret Society," your mind conjures up images of Masonic rituals,  Coven sacrifices, the Illuminati, the Ku Klux Klan or other such mysterious or dangerous congregations.  You don't normally think of Christians as belonging to a "secret" club.  Unfortunately, though, in some parts of the world it is still dangerous to publicly express religious interest.  In the Middle East, China or some parts of Asia a Christian is not a welcomed member of society.  In those societies, the Christian must wisely remain somewhat hidden.

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The following thought has agitated me recently, and I'd like to give it wings.  I have wondered how the world might look if every member of the Christian Community across denominational lines were given the gifts with which the original first-century disciples were endowed; You know: healing, resurrection, exorcism, preaching, teaching, etc.  That might be a hard package to keep hidden, don't you think?  And if you had such gifts, would you even WANT to keep them to yourself?  Can you imagine ever again living a hum-drum life?

"But hold on," you say, "Are you thinking that if you could do that, and anyone gets sick, you're just gonna take the next train out to heal them?"

Well, maybe.  But if every church member had the gift, don't you think that you could find someone a little closer at hand to take care of the job?

Right now Christians are not so easy to spot in a crowd.  Granted, some members are stuck in a clothing style from another century, but they pretty much look like everyone else: two arms, legs … you get the idea.  Someone in the cheap seats pipes up and says, "You can identify them by the things they don't do."  Perhaps.  But let me suggest this, if any single one of those Christians in the crowd had the gifts listed above, you'd be able to recognize that person, not by the things he or she didn't do, but by the things they DID do.  Wouldn't you agree?

"So we're just going to get the gift, then go out and heal all the sick people.  Is that what you're saying?  Someone dies and we just show up to bring 'em back?"  

Well, if I had the gift of healing, I'd probably find it difficult to park myself on the couch with beer and crackers watching Jerry Springer, don't you think?  Can you imagine ever again having trouble getting out of bed in the morning?

"But if we lived in a world with no sickness, no death, we wouldn't long for Heaven."  

Really?  Is that all you need to keep you here in this broken-down world?  No need for a health system or undertakers?  You'll turn a blind eye to all the vice and heartbreak going on behind closed doors.  All you want is a bit of money in the bank, a job, a home, three meals a day and two weeks' vacation a year, and you'll be settled for eternity.  Well, good luck with that.  You sound a bit like the person singing the song in "My Fair Lady:"

"All I want is a place somewhere — far away from the cold night air — a place that we can share — oh, wouldn't it be luverly."

It seems to me that if human beings truly were created in the image of God — lightning rods for His Spirit — then it won't matter what religious software is running between our ears.  A willingness to be a channel for God appears to be the only handwriting left off of the Baptismal Certificate, and is probably the only ink actually needed to explain the job description.  I imagine it must take a lot of restraint on the part of God to resist the desire to burst out of a person and fix something awful.

"Tony, you sound far too simplistic for my liking."

Well, I apologize for that.  But like I said above, the missing ingredient of the gifts of the Spirit agitates me.  Perhaps I've seen more than I care to of the pain and heartbreak of this world — not just in my own life, but in the life of everyone I know and beyond.  Perhaps I'm fearful of the world awaiting my kids.  Yes, I'm familiar with the text which indicates that perfect love casts out fear.  But I don't yet have that perfect love, so here I am looking forward to a better world while I take care where I put my feet in this one.

This is going to sound heretical, and in another century I would have been hung for suggesting such a notion, but I imagine that people with the above-mentioned gifts of the Spirit would have little time — or, perhaps, need — for attending church.  These people would be too busy walking beside their own local "Pool of Bethesda" searching for people to restore.  Hmm, you're right, it is a strange notion; perhaps I'll just leave it out of the writing.

Oh … Secret Societies — get back on track, Tony.  It does seem to me like Christianity shouldn't be something you have to ask a person about, as if you were asking what he or she prefers for breakfast or lunch.  It seems to me that a person full of the Spirit would be easily identifiable to any other person filled with the same Spirit.  Just like when you go to Europe and get around a tour group visiting Paris, London or Rome; German-speaking people eventually gravitate toward each other, as do the French, the English, Italians, etc.  As soon as they open their mouths, it becomes clear how you can communicate with them.  A Spirit-filled individual will have a speech and a presence about them that might be completely unobserved by the general populace.  It's likely that Jesus would have been lost in a crowd … until He stopped … and started speaking.  Though, interestingly enough, even the Roman guards (likely not full of the Spirit), who were well used to people trying to stir up the population, could tell that this Man was not like the rest of the crowd.  That observation is worth parking on for more than a moment.

Secret Societies seem to live on the fringes of society; JUUUUST inside the law, but only just.  Secret Societies don't want just anyone in their services observing their rituals.  Secret Societies are tolerated only as long as they aren't out stringing up the Catholics or the Jews or the Africans.  We have learned to be disgusted by these behaviors — at least most of us have.  As long as we remember that these people were once here, we can somewhat assure that they don't return to power.

My Christian walk has been an interesting one.  I have met people in the congregation whose only purpose in life is not to heal, but to tell the rest of the world how right they are about what they believe, and how wrong everyone else is.  This kind of person is of the sort that if you share the same belief as he or she does, then they believe it and understand it better than you do.  This kind of person cares little for the feelings of others, especially those sharing the same church roof.  I have met people who have spent hours every day studying the Scriptures and books about the Scriptures; but some of these people possess the nastiest of dispositions, all you want to do is keep away from them.  There have also been some of the sweetest people I have ever met, who are usually not so familiar with Book/Verse and side of the page this or that particular text resides.

A knowledge of the Scriptures can be a very useful tool in your armory — but that knowledge is not the armory, any more than a shotgun is an arsenal.  It appears that Jesus was less interested in how well His disciples understood the Scriptures than He was in their willingness to go out and willingly share that which they had been freely given.  Doesn't that strike you as interesting?  It does me.

Once or twice in the Scriptures is a record of Jesus performing a miracle of healing, and telling all the witnesses to be quiet about it.  I'm afraid that request would be a tough one for me to obey.  If one of MY children should die and be restored to life, I think that would have to go on the "Praise List."  And if I should be delivered from leprosy, you can put money on me being found in the congregation — any congregation — the following Sabbath.  When Jesus' disciples were filled with His Spirit there was no way that fact was going to be kept secret.

"But the pouring out of the Spirit of God was only temporary.  The Spirit is not in the world today.  We must wait for the promise of the Latter Rain."

Yes, I've heard that.  And I honestly believe that notion should bother you, like it bothers me.   What portion of Scripture shall we extract to prop up our reality?  I have attended countless "annointings" of sick people who didn't get better.  Those of us in the room called upon God to heal each unfortunate soul.  We quoted the Scripture which asserts that "the prayer of a righteous man availeth much."  And the sick still didn't get better.  It took me a while to realize that there isn't a man (or woman) on the planet that is able (or ever has been able) to fulfill THAT requirement.  The only Person that can fill the shoes of the "righteous man" is the same Man that was the only individual qualified to cast that first stone at the adulteress.  But occasionally it seems that prayers are answered; the sick do get better.  Why didn't they have to "wait for the promise of the Latter Rain"?  What uncommon privilege was theirs?  Were they healed by chance?  Did their deliverance come as a surprise to God?  Did it have nothing to do with God — at all?  Why did the Spirit work here and not there?

Well, of course, we don't know — exactly.  Some things we'll just have to wait and have them explained to us.

The Spirit of God does appear, for the time being, to be somewhat of a well-kept secret, but I have a notion that this condition of things is about to change.

As a closing thought, perhaps we should consider that one of the best evidences we have that Jesus is not on the planet today is the fact that YOU don't know where He is.  You might more easily keep secret the whereabouts of Jesus than you could keep hidden a blaze in a fireworks factory.

On the other hand, though not here in person Himself, there appears to me to be nothing secret about the Society of Jesus.

And that's just my take on it ….

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