I was perusing the Anglican Church of Canada General Synod website, when I came across an Article titled ‘A General Synod without walls’. It starts off so:
“This fellow eats with sinners and tax collectors.” Luke 15
As our General Synod approaches, the issues before our church come into sharper and shaper focus, and the volume of the commentary – both the sheer amount of it, and its loudness, grows. In a fractured world, there is before us the specter of a fractured church. All it will take for that to be realized is for us to persist in seeing each other as “positions” instead of persons. And in particular, to see each other as “outside” and “inside”, or “onside” and “offside.”
We are not the first generation to be tempted in that direction. In the time of Jesus, there were hard boundaries, boundaries that defined a person as clean or unclean, as included or excluded, as “us” or “them.” I have absolutely no doubt that if we come to General Synod looking for reasons to impose such boundaries, to build such walls, we will find them.
Read the rest of the article here.
Does this not seem entirely reasonable? However, upon reading the whole article, a thought came into my mind. A sheep pen needs walls, for this is what helps protect the flock. There are still ravenous wolves and roaring lions out there whose only intent is to devour the flock.
In fact, this is a good analogy as to what is happening at the moment, as erstwhile sheep are doing the utmost to break the walls down. Success, in their terms, would seem to be having a sheep pen with no walls. You can put the sheep into the pen through the Gate, and they are then free to wander off in whatever direction they fancy.
Because, y’know, we are so enlightened these days, and wolves / lions, well they were just simplistic fables for a more primitive time, don’t you know? That is, until one finds the lion of lust, or the wolf of despair only too alive and well when grazing in the fetid fields of the world.
To address the writer, what he is doing is confusing two things. First, there are human walls. Some human walls are necessary, just like garden walls, they help define our existance. We need that information to relate to each other, for example are you a member of my immediate family or are you a stranger? It may help me to judge better whether I should trust you with my children, for instance.
Of course, these garden fences can become thick castle walls, overgrown with ivy, rank and fetid, as we take natural division and turn it into intolerance, hatred and irrational fear. That’s where sin comes in. And, if those are the walls he is addressing then yes, tear them down!
However, I would argue that it is not what is actually happening in practice. In practice, the walls that are being torn down are Gods walls, the walls that are not intended to curse and restrict, but to bless and protect. Adults no less need walls than do our children – I know of no parents who can bring up children without defining boundaries. Why then do we imagine that God would be any less a loving parent? Truth is – there is danger and evil out there, and we are more than able to fall for it, become part of it, revel in it. We are fallen people, even while we are redeemed. We are the now and the not yet. The walls are the walls of the sheep pen, and are to us a blessing.
The writer, either purposefully or not, misdirects us by bringing forward a laudable aim, that of tearing down the rank weed infested castle walls of our lives, and uses that to cover what is actually happening, the tearing down of the sheep pen!
To man those walls and seek to repair them is not hate, it is love. To confront people with the truth is not hate, it is love. To seek a more excellent way is not hate, it is love.
You have to wonder why, when us humans were made a little lower than the angels, that we are referred to as sheep? Animals?! But that is the truth, having swapped the truth for a lie, subsuming what was made in Gods image for the carnal – in a very real sense we have become animals – all of us, like lost sheep, have gone astray.
The work that Christ has done in us is just as I have said – the now and the not yet. We are His – yet the old self still wars within us. Hence, by the grace of God, we need a sheep pen – one with walls. Those who would tear down the pen, even while crying freedom, are the worst deceivers – both deceived and deceiving – promising freedom while ensnared themselves.
Peter had it right, I think:
2 Peter 2 (New International Version)
1But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.
17These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 20If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”