The Rebuke and the Local Church
by Joshua Moran
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Competition is mainstream in the world we live in. Competition can be healthy when it comes to personal growth and excellence, but is harmful to the Body of Christ in the United States. We have seen competition present since Cain and Abel in the Bible. Often the story of Cain and Abelís sacrifice is poorly communicated to the Body of Christ. Was Cainís sin really the jealousy that turned to murder, or was there a deeper root.
We can easily visualize Abelís sacrifice as the perfect, adorable, perfectly white, little lamb. Just as easily we can envision Cainís offering as some rotten fruit and veggies from the field. Letís erase that vision of the offerings brought by these brothers, and understand the root of why God said what He did.
So the Lord said to Cain, ďWhy are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it. - Genesis 4:6,7
If we read on, we see that Cain later talks with Abel and then the ultimate act of aggression takes place after the talk. Abel was not killed because of his offering being greater in value than Cainís, but Cain murdered a messenger of God. I take certain liberties because we do not know what their conversation entailed, but I believe the following insight to be true because of humanities pattern that lives to this day.
Cainís heart was rotten, not the produce from the field. Taking an example of a modern day church service, two brothers walk into the church on Sunday morning. Cain stayed up late the night before hanging out with the guys watching a basketball game and had way too much alcohol to drink. Cainís brother Abel was refreshed and fondly recounted the family dinner he had with his wife and kids the night before. When entering the church Abel was pulled aside and was asked to lead a small group that week.
Cain was a little uncomfortable since he was the one who brought Abel to the church in the first place, and Cain had been at the church much longer, yet Cain was not asked to lead a small group. As the service progressed Cain could not focus on God at all, and bitterness for Abel began to fester. After service was over Abel took Cain out for lunch and they talked. Abel spoke with Cain regarding the habit of drinking and how it was affecting the family, and thought Cain should abstain completely. Cain walked out of the lunch, and went to the entire family and spoke ill of Abel and the church. Cainís words sunk deep into the hearts of the family and they began to see Abel and the church as too holy for the family. Cain in essence killed off Abel from the family.
Cain was given a choice to pursue God in purity, all or nothing. Cain chose his own selfish desires, while Abel chose a godly path. When Abel chose the biblical thing to do by speaking with his brother, Cain decided to kill the messenger. Jesus taught on this very subject when He spoke of the parable of the vineyard. The owner of the vineyard sent delegates who in turn got roughed up and beaten. The owner decided to send his own son, and the workers decided to kill him.
Pastors go through this parable in real life every Sunday. Godís Word is spoken from the pulpit and everyone in the congregation hears that they are sinners in need of a Savior week in and week out. The godly person processes the sermon towards self-reflection, and the selfish person processes the sermon as ďthis must be for someone elseĒ. When the selfish person is confronted with truth, they try to tear down the message, but eventually the truth bears in and the only thing left is to kill the messenger. So the selfish person leaves the church, and spreads around the town that their old church was too legalistic and unfriendly.
Does God call people out of their home church and into a church within the same town? It is possible, but it would be surrounded by huge blessing on both sides and often this is not the case. Unfortunately churches seem to compete just to keep the sheep. What we call, sheep transfer, is not healthy for the church as a whole, and often leaves people only partially healed. Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11 speaks of this, ďÖpeace, peace, when there is no peaceĒ. Though blame falls on both the congregate and the leader, the accountability falls on heavily on the pastors. Pastors should communicate with each other within a specific community. For instance, if a praise leader left Church Alpha in total rebellion and took others with him to Church Bravo, the pastors at Church Alpha and Church Bravo should communicate and work towards reconciliation. The praise leader may decide to stay at Church Bravo, but the relationship with Church Alphaís pastor has been reconciled or at least attempted.
What is actually happening within churches is much like divorce. God is a God of Order and He did not call believers to quarrel and split churches. I can only pray that local churches would wake up to this reality, and support one another to the spread the gospel within their own respective communities. If the church learns to apply this, then individual believers will begin to function the same way overall.
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