Monday, October 06, 2003

I have enjoyed the comments written in response to my thoughts about the dangers of the institutionalization of the organic and living community of believers in Jesus. And I agree (not that my agreement matters).

We cannot afford to have a simplistic view that asserts that the root and source of the problems of institutionalization is inherent in having organization, in using or acquiring property, or in having a bank account and being legally instituted as a non-profit organization. While all of these are characteristics of institutionalism, these are not the sources of the problem. The disease itself is a mindset that grows in an environment replete with all these external indicators. But the mindset that views everything organizationally and institutionally, and loses the intent and purpose of relationship and organic life, is not necessarily generated by the presence of these structures.

I think we must see the same differentiation in Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5:29. Though Jesus admonishes us to take extreme measures to guard against sin, we cannot really take him as saying that sin is something in the eye itself, or something to do with our hands. In the preceding verses he had just affirmed that adultery is an act of lust, and stated that lust occurs in the heart (Matt. 5:27-28). The eye or some other part of our body may be the means through which we sin, but sin itself is an evil desire, a corrupted condition of the heart. It would be misguided to interpret Jesus as teaching that physical mutilation will actually change our hearts and deal with our real problem. Instead, we understand Jesus' instruction to be commanding us to deal with the ways sin is manifested in us.

In the same way, we need to be warned against the way the institutionalized heart manifests its desires. This is really my concern in the previous blog entry. Ultimately, never having any meeting place will not address a heart that substitutes commitment to an institution for a relationship with Christ. We might hinder the expression of that desire by not having a building of any sort, but the heart would still need to be changed.

I believe that we can be organized without being organizational in nature. I believe we can have facilities and yet not be an institution that seeks to perpetuate itself. I believe that by God's grace we will be empowered to keep our eyes on our identity as God's people joined in a spiritual journey.

As the comments suggested, we must keep our focus clear. Diligence will be required on our part, as well as perhaps a frequent shake-up of "our" status quo so that we never lose our "alien" identity as people who are sojourners - who live in tents. That too is an attitude of the heart.

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