Being in Japan, with our lowly language skills and cultural understanding, sometimes we feel as though we’re kind of floating apart from both the North American and Japanese cultures. It’s an odd feeling, but also a little freeing, because for the moment we have the mentality of outsiders looking in. With our current detachment, we’ve found that we have many new insights about our North American culture. So, this month I thought I’d share one such insight here.
Peter and I were recently talking about how we, as Christians, tend to impose our own rules and regulations on others. About how we feel most comfortable when everyone in our North American churches is the same as us. If we find someone sufficiently dissimilar in our ranks, we sometimes recommend (or want to recommend) that they try out a different denomination which is more suited to their style and beliefs. Along that vein we also like to read the Bible in only one way, without giving room for multiple interpretations, because then we don't have to endure the discomfort of ambiguity.
And then I realized something. As Christians, we often want our churches to operate as assembly lines: cutting, stamping, welding, painting; many, many new Christians being created, each one exactly the same as the one before. But this is not God's church. God is an artist, with infinite creativity. He hand-makes each of us. Each person undergoes a different set of steps and order to the creation (or, re-creation) process.
When we expect our church to be a factory instead of an artisan's nook, we deny God His own creativity, demand that God use the same process on the person after us as the one He used on us, and settle for flimsy, plastic models instead of vibrant, joyous masterpieces. We live a life of anti-faith, presuming that we know better than our Creator, and seeking to make man in our own image. We become our own idols.