I am one of those who left a fundamentalist Christian coercive religious organization while remaining a Christian. I realized not long ago that there are many constructive things I believe and act on today, learned (often the hard way!) from my experiences there. But I think I’m a wiser person, and probably a better Christian, than I used to be, and though it doesn’t take away the painful memories, it does help me to feel that the perspective I’ve gained is valuable, to me and to my loved ones.
Here are my 12 bits of wisdom:
1. I can’t let someone else tell me what to believe. I must read and learn what the Bible says for myself, with a mind to context, the original language and cultural understanding, and authorial intent. Anyone, leader or layperson, can misread or misinterpret a text.
2. Every adult’s life is ultimately his or her own responsibility. Being “my brother’s keeper” does not mean being my brother’s watchdog.
3. Christ came to set us free of the law. This was not so that we could turn the New Testament into a whole new set of even harder laws– it was so we could walk in the Spirit and love one another.
4. It is never a good idea to give other human beings power/control over my own life choices. Conversely, I should never assume power over anyone else’s life that that person is meant to exercise as an individual.
5. When a human being in the church allows him/herself to be elevated above other human beings rather than humbly serving, negative results will almost always ensue. Celebrity status in the church belongs only to Christ.
6. It’s important to be allowed to talk about our legitimate grievances. Talking about negative things that happened is often actually necessary to process them and come to a place of forgiveness/healing. Also, silencing legitimate complaints/criticisms from others is a good way to never have to change or grow.
7. I am Christ’s witness, not His salesman. If I share about my life in Christ, it should always be with respect for others’ viewpoints and needs.
8. Sometimes people who hurt me are never going to say they’re sorry. Forgiving them anyway is not a way of legitimizing what they did; it’s just a way to leave them in God’s hands and walk away free.
9. When I have hurt someone else, I need to take respnsibility for my own actions, apologize, and try to make it better if I can.
10. Christianity is not about heierarchy but about humility. It’s not about authority, it’s about an attitude of deferring one to another. And it’s not about leadership or who’s in charge– it’s about God taking the lowly (which means every human being) and raising them up in Christ. There is no such thing as an elite group of His children. There is no such thing as special privilege or status that any person has a right to assume over others.
11. True wisdom shows itself in humility, tolerance of others, and receptiveness to new truths, from any source He chooses to use to bring them to us.
12. It’s not about being right. It’s about loving and being loved.
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