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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Orphans Are "In" and Other Trendsetting Movements

I've been reading the Lemony Snicket series, called "A Series of Unfortunate Events." If you're familiar with it, you know that the story is about three kids-- Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire--and their efforts to find a guardian after their parents are killed in a fire. This is complicated by the evil Count Olaf, who wants to steal their family fortune. In their sixth home (book six), which I just started reading, the kids go to live with the trend-savvy Esme and Jerome Squalor. If you've read it, you already know that the reason why the Squalors did not adopt the children before was that, until recently, "orphans were 'out.'" In fact, when something goes "out," as the children learn in the early chapters, the Squalors drop it like a hot potato, which makes the Baudelaires wonder how long they will last.

Okay, so what does this have to do with this blog?

The setup for this book got me thinking about trends: fashion, decorating, reality-TV, fitness and dieting, "green" efforts, politics, et cetera.... It seems that culture is driven constantly from one extreme to the next by different trends. If we're not careful, it can pull us in and toss us around like laundry in the washing machine.

One basic rule of trends is "what goes around, comes around." We're always seeing the same fashions again, for instance. Pack rat frugality really pays off, if you're willing to keep a closet full of old clothes long enough. Solomon was right when he wrote, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9 NIV).

Frankly, I'm tired of trends and trend-following. It wastes my time and money, and leaves me stressed-out or insecure about myself. Keeping up with the latest trends is exhausting!

The Rudderless Ship

The one thing that bothers me even more is when I see the church as a whole chasing after various cultural trends. To make myself perfectly clear, I get angry hearing the elements of postmodernism, moral relativism, self-affirmation humanism, psychobabble, and the like in church. These things aren't from God! They can only confuse people and destroy their faith. The Apostle Paul wrote,
It was he [God] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4: 11-15 NIV)
I have been told that the image of people being "tossed back an forth by the waves" is that of a rudderless ship. The rudder is for steering, and is especially useful during a powerful storm. The image paints a clear picture of one way of life. Without knowledge of the truths of God, we cannot become strong or mature, and our lives spin helplessly out of control.

Note the difference between the two kinds of doctrine and the two kinds of teachers Paul describes. The first teachers are God-appointed, and their teaching gets its authority and fulfillment from God and in the very nature of God. It trains and equips its hearers and leads them into "maturity," "unity in faith," "works of service," and ultimately to attaining everything that God wanted them to have, "the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."

In contrast, these teachings of cunning and crafty men are compared to "waves" and "wind." They are useless and impotent. They can't steer anyone's life or help in any way, because they are not unified, and they have no future purpose in mind. They can't prepare anyone for a future purpose. Rather than strengthening the "boat," they are merely threatening to tear it apart.

I hate human trends in church because I can see how they break the church apart and steal away its direction and purpose. Ultimately, they rob everyone of "the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" and wreck their lives on a darker shore. It is Christ, not man, who should be behind our doctrine, giving it authority. Any other offering is irresponsible, at the least, or "deceitful scheming" at the worst.

I Didn't Forget...Back to "Orphans Are 'in'"

Lemony Snicket's Baudelaire children worried about the day when "orphans go 'out.'" I'm happy to say that with God, they are always "in."
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. (Isaiah 49: 15-17 NIV).
Follow God! He knows where He's taking you (even if it's not popular), He cares deeply for you (even when no one else remembers!), and He wants to see His purpose fulfilled in your life (to the full measure of blessing!). Don't be deceived--don't choose the shipwreck!


Anonymous said...

A rudder may be against the wind and waves of popular opinion...but can keep you on course for the right destination. Thanks for the reminder!