Thebiggest news that struck me this week was the behaviour of two stars. One, Buju Banton, a Reggae super star with significant international acclaim, and a "conscious" rastaman to boot. The other, one who I had never heard about, as I don''t follow the tele-evangelists, Bishop Eddie Long, apparently a religious super star, the head of one of America's mega-churches with a congregation reportedly in the region of 25,000. Both are accused of involvement in activities which have shocked many who thought highly of both men. Neither one has been found guilty before a court of law. One will know his fate tomorrow. The other has signaled that he would like his day in court. But even if they are cleared of the troubling chrages they have both been extremely foolish. What is a " conscious" rastaman doing tasting cocaine, and talking " garbage " about his desire to traffic the substance! And what business has a man of the cloth, purportedly one of God's servants, doing with a million dollar salary, a Bentley, a five million dollar house and a learjet, as I was reliably informed by a US pastor with whom I spoke today. It's all abut money and image.
No wonder then that words prior to the actual from the Epistle appointed for my church today reads as follows.
" But godliness with contentment is a great gain. For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men inot ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered away from the faith and pieced themselves with many griefs".
One of the great issues for the church in particular, and for the society as a whole, as so the church goes, so goes the society, is this relatively new " prosperity gospel" which is sweeping the USA and has spread its evil tentacles into our island. A 'gospel' which encourages persons to seek God as a means of personal advancement in their financial status, their health and their social standing. Of course it is not advanced as " vulgar" as that but " by their fruits ye shall know them". The problem is that the proponents of a " gospel", which eschews sacrifice, seeks to avoid persecution and looks only for good times, are being " traitors" to the Cross of Christ, and therefore have no power to " free the captives, give sight to the blind and proclaim the year of the Lord's favor". And worse, offers no protection when the day of trouble comes, as it will for all human beings. We had our own issues with this prosperity gospel here recently when the church got burnt by both CASH PLUS and OLINT. We should learn our lesson well and not get caught up with the hype and the image and the good times which big business masquerading as the
" ecclesia" , the called out of God, is leading people astray in America and elsewhere. People of God have to be manifestly different from the people of this world. And so too those Rastafarian who set themelves high standards. One of the disappointing things in recent times in my country has been the decline in the influence of the " conscious " rastaman. A movement which from day one had a faulty theology, as it based it's existence on a mere man, Emperor Haile Selassie. But at least it encouraged, poor black youths to have a different vision of themselves, at a time when the love of money and power, was leading so many into gangs and political warfare
In fact a meditation I read from one of the old saints speak very clearly to this issue of the Christianity and the world.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CHRISTAIN COMMUNITY
EPISTLE TO DIOGNETUS
Verse Galatians 5:16
The realtion of Christians to the world is that of a soul to the body. As the soul is diffused through every part of the body, so are Christians through all the cities of the world. The soul too, inhabits the body, while at the same time forming no part of it.; and Christian inhabit the world, but they are not part of the world.
The soul , invisible itself, is immured within a visible body; so Christians can be recognizedin the world, but thier Christianity itself remains hidden from eye.
The flesh hates the soul, and wars against her without provocation, because they are opposed to its pleasures. All the same, th soul loves the flesh and all its members. despite their hatred for her, and Christians too, love those who hate them.
The soul shut up inside the body, nevertheless, holds the body together; and though they are confined within the world as in a dungeon, it is the Christian who holds the world together.
The soul, which is immortal, must dwell in a mortal tabernacle, and Christains, as they sojoun for a while in the midst of corruptibility here, look for incorruptibility in the heavens.
Finally, just as to be stinted of food and drink makes for the soul's improvement, so when Christians are every day subjected to ill-treatment, they increase the more in numbers. Such is the high post of duty in which God has placed them, and it their moral duty to not to shrink form it.
And when we shrink from that high post of duty, societies crumble, individuals perish, and God's righteous judgement falls on the church. As it did time and time again in the Old Testament against the children of Israel. And will continue to happen in this present dispensation, unless we remember that " we are not our own", as " we have been bought by the price of Blood" - The precious Blood of the Lamb, even Jesus Christ.
The reality is that we Christians are under tremendous pressure to conform to the ways of the world, and our young ones are particularly vulnerable. To go for the superficial and avoid the deeper life with Christ. Ultimately, what counts in our journey with Christ, is not extent of the praise of worship experience, the amount of social work that we do, our perceived piety in mode of dress and use of language, the day on which we worship or whether we are Evangelicals, Pentecostals or from the established churches, but whether or not we have become " a new creation". That's how God will judge us. If we have " put on Christ" and left the old man behind. That's how we should judge both mega-churches and small churches.
Is the pastor exhibiting the " fruits of the new creation", or is it just the same ole same ole. In the same way, are the members of the congregation exhibiting the " fruits of the Spirit", the love, the faithfulness, the mercy to others, the shunning of the very appearance of evil, at home, in the office and in the public square. Are they being persecuted, and how do they bear up under such trials? Do they fight with "weapons of this world", rage, anger and judgement, or do they love those who persecute them and pray for their souls.
This is what the final meditation speaks to.
WHAT REALLY COUNTS CHRIS TIEGEN SEPTEMBER 25
What really counts is a new creation. Galatians 6:15
Pressure. No one likes it; everybody feels it. It can come from deadlines, society at large, TV commercials, or people very close to us. One of the enemy's most effective weapon is to pressure people