DO WE DARE TO CONFRONT THE EARLY CHURCH?
Still bathed in the afterglow of Christ’s appearance, the early church remained chaste for Him by the only means available to it—and to us—self-judgment.
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God. (I Pet 4:17)
Try the spirits whether they are of God. (I John 4:1)
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. (I Cor 11:31)
Self-examination, let us remember, is the core of Jesus’s teaching:
Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own? (Matt 7:3)
When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (Lk 18:8)
The thread from which the very life of the church hangs is nothing more nor less than searching self-scrutiny.
Yet, our churches have ignored Christ’s command of self-examination, and the apostles’ command of self-judgment, as if churches were above criticism simply because they are churches.
With such imperatives constraining us from across two millennia, no justification can possibly be offered for the massive failure of our churches to judge themselves, especially in view of their readiness to judge other churches and the world outside.
Only if we rediscover the sacredly imposed humility of self-judgment does revitalization await us. Without it, no revival, no renewal, no reform is possible.
Do we dare vest ourselves in the self-scrutiny of the early church as we grope in the darkness of the twenty-first century?
Charles W. Schaefer is a teacher and preacher whose other works include Christianity Without Religion, The Short Stories of Jesus Christ, Expanding the Frontiers of Christian Consciousness, and The Great Evangelical Dilution.
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