5.17.2006

Professional Weaker Brothers - #3

A young boy stood at a train station trying to sell a bag of juicy oranges. He walked around yelling, "Oranges! Juicy oranges for 25 cents!" And he did this for an hour without selling a single orange. Finally, he gave up. He sat down on a bench and, in frustration, grabbed an orange and started peeling it. The citrus smell filled the air. Then he ripped that orange open and the juice began to run all over his hands. As he took a bite, the juice ran down his face, onto his shirt, and then his stomach. And in less than a half hour, he sold his entire bag of oranges.

I wonder if the Church is more worried about selling oranges or eating them? Funny thing is, if we enjoyed more of what we're trying to "sell," we'd probably sell more of it.

Aldrich's book suggests that there are those in the Church on a mission to stifle citrus sales. They obsess over the juice on the ground, the zest in the air, the possible unsanitary conditions and the absence of a sales permit. They'd rather shut this thing down than see others enjoying unapproved oranges.

These are the Professional Weaker Brothers. They make it their job to enforce tradition, impose personal preferences, and monitor and manipulate the conduct of others. Their lists are long, and vary from person to person. But they usually begin, "Thou shalt not..."

I started this brief series by mentioning my use of the word "hell" in a story I wrote. My critique partners suggested I change the word becuase religious publishers frown upon cursing. The CBA (Christian Booksellers of America) has its own "language list," which is a topic of vigorous discussion among many Christian authors. But while I appreciate the concerns about cursing, I believe the CBA's list goes too far. Not only can't an author say hell or damn, she must refrain from fart, pee, poop, crap and fa shizzle my nizzle. Now I can understand cutting the f-word, but fart?

Which leads me to this question: Are these strictures the result of a genuine concern for weaker brothers, or a case of legalism?

This wouldn't be the first time a large religious body imposed an unrealistic set of rules upon the proletariat. Of course, the CBA is far from the worst offender. I once spoke to a man whose church routinely inspected the length of its male members' hair and the distance of their women's hemline below the knee. (After all, you'd hate to discover you were damned to hell for an inch of skirt.) The CBA's language list seems trivial in relation to some of the absurdities issued in the name of Christ. But my question is: When did these rules ever get anyone closer to God?

Yes, stumbling weaker believers is a serious sin. Real serious. However, some brothers have made a profession out of being "offended." The maturing believer is one who can discern the professional weaker brother from the susceptible weaker brother, accept those who choose to refrain from controversial matters and grant grace to those who participate. It is not my job to tell believers what kind of music they can listen to, what clothing is appropriate and if the f-word (fart, that is), is tolerable on ocassion. Of course, there are times to address all these things. But last I checked, no one appointed me to judge the world of sin, righteousness and judgement.

It is my job to eat oranges and let the juice cascade down my face.

Dear saints, if we are to build bridges to the unsaved, it is imperative that we drop our moral measuring sticks. Perhaps more people would "taste and see that the Lord is good," once the Lord's people did. The Church is far too sour. It's when the juice is dripping down our faces and tangy citrus spikes the air, that we're doing our job. Sure, there'll always be Pharisees hovering over us, wagging their fingers, condemning the awful mess. When that happens, let me suggest you do one thing -- keep on eating.

9 comments:

Gina Holmes said...

Wow, Mike, great analogy! Makes me want to go eat an "orange". I think I will.

p.s. TL Hines book does have "damn" in it. And Brandilyn Collin's upcoming release deals with rape and premarital sex. Times are achangin' my friend.

Mike Duran said...

That calls for a Guinness, G. Err, make that an O.J.

Ame said...

This hits a chord way too close to home. My ex-in-laws, also retired, career, foreign missionaries, have so many rules I stopped fitting in over the years - they work hard to follow these rules and verbally despise anyone else who does not (in private of course). They have done this to the point that while we were together, they had nothing to do with any of us; yet during our separation two yrs ago and now divorced, they have a relationship with my ex and my kids when with their dad ... hummmmm ...

And as a recent divorcee, I have literally been shocked at how critical the church is ... the one I've loved since I was nine and still love. I understand why people leave the church now, though I am not planning to. And I understand why divorcees remarry so quickly and hence, usually unwisely - we are so not accepted in church as we are - and if we are accepted, it's very conditional.

Anyway ... that's my five cents of personal experience.

Jeanne Damoff said...

Well said, Mike.

My husband's brother and his wife are members of a wine-tasting club. As Baptists, they know many of their friends don't condone drinking alcohol at all, but all the other members of the club are Baptists, too. So they named their group "First Miracle Appreciation Society." They don't flaunt their purpose, but if someone asks, they've certainly established a solid place to stand while explaining.

Cheers.

lindaruth said...

This has been an excellent series, Mike. We place so many obstacles in people's way to the Gospel and then we wonder why no one comes.

Kelly Klepfer said...

Hmm like putting off an intoxicating aroma of Christ's love....

I have to share a wee story...

When my son was five we visited my grandma in Kansas.

She pulled me aside and said. "Jordan just said the F-word. I told him it was illegal in Kansas!"

Of course I was horrified. It's one thing when your kid lets loose with a humdinger at home, but most parents hope that the kid can at least keep his mouth under control around grandparents and Sunday School teachers.

I put my hands on my hips and cornered him.

"But I didn't say the F-word, I promise!"

A few more questions pinned down the infraction. He'd said fart.

And I'm free to spread this story on the www because granny doesn't surf!

Janet Rubin said...

Mike, I think that was possibly the best post I ever read. Amen (big, loud Southern-Baptist style Amen:)

siouxsiepoet said...

i excel at eating unapproved oranges.

i take my cues from Jesus who was such an out there character, today, he'd probably ride a harley (though that seems tame now), be um, who knows. certainly not me.

fear and trembling is where it is at my friend, working it out.

thank you for this word and for the wonderful smell of citrus wafting my way.

suz.

Jacob said...

Mike,

I really enjoyed these three artcles. I have questioned in years passed if "Christianity" really had anything to offer those on the outside. In these articles, you put into words a conclusion I have had to this question. What I had once thought was "Christianity" was really a "professional weaker brother" club, which can hinder people from the fulness of LIFE that Jesus so often promised.

Thanks,

Jacob