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Dappled Light



I recently re-read Dave's article "Space Without Spice" with a couple of other graduates and we had some interesting discussion as a result.

I started thinking about the differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament and I was wondering which era we resemble most. The kingdom of Israel was a visible organisation. .. the keepers and enforcers of God's law on Earth. Moses and other Old Testament leaders focussed more on outward obediece to God's law, but there are clues throughout the Old Testament writings that what God really wanted was inner change more than just external obedience.

When Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of Heaven, that signalled that God was now focussing on the inner invisible kingdom (Luke 17:21). A new kingdom which lives in the hearts and minds of individuals. Only God knows the boundaries of that kingdom.

As Dave pointed out in "Space Without Spice", things are more complicated than what they would first seem. The world is not made up of "good" people and "bad" people. It's more like we all have a mixture of good and bad in us. But even though that may be the case, it seems that God still works with the good wherever he finds it, even if it means that he has to overlook some pretty bad stuff in the individuals he works with/through.

Understanding this should help us realise just how elusive the Kingdom of Heaven really is. Not only do the borders of God's kingdom cut across every cultural, social, and ethnic divide, they also cut through the individual. God seems to work with the good in people in spite of their problems, mistakes and outright sins.

I don't think this approach should be taken to mean that God tolerates sin, but perhaps more that he allows it to run its course, in the hope that people will eventually see it for the destructive force that it is.

As we had the occasion to witness many times in our history as Jesus Christians, trying to force people to deal with their internal problems usually only pushed them away from fellowship, but I wonder if we took the attitude that it is an invisible thing that only they can really deal with (which is in fact the case anyway), then that would give them the space to work on the areas of their spiritual walk that they feel are most important. You could think of it as being a bit like lighting a candle instead of shouting at the darkness. Even if their behaviour could not be tolerated within a visible organisation, the emphasis could still be on spiritual support for them out there on their own organisationally, like we're doing now.

As I was thinking about these issues I pictured dappled light on a forest floor, representing the dappled fallen nature of mankind: patches of light surrounded by darkness. Our job is to support and expand the areas of light, while pretty much ignoring the dark areas.

It occured to me that SELF discipline may be one of the main goals of free will. If the only changes that really matter are the changes that we make within ourselves (with the help of the Holy Spirit), then that is what we should focus on.

It seems to me that God has tried different strategies throughout the ages to lead people into his kingdom. In the long history of the Israelites, every generation or two an inspired leader was thrown up, to try and bring the people closer to God. Then came Jesus with the Kingdom of Heaven.

I don't know if the make-up of human beings has changed since Noah (Perhaps we have been drying out spiritually?) but it does seem like God has adjusted his strategy in the New Testament to work with the spiritual reality of that "dappled light" within each individual, so that he can nurture the light, while leaving the dark to be dealt with later. I guess it is a bit like the parable of the farmer allowing the wheat to grow up with the weeds, where the focus is on getting the wheat to grow rather than pulling out the weeds.

We all know that motives are very rarely pure, and they are usually mixed, with some selfishness and some nobility. This is where we need to somehow give strength to the noble motives while discouraging the selfish ones, not through external pressure, but with internal pressure (the only real source of change).

Jesus said that we should let our light shine (Matthew 5:16). We may shine the light, but not into the eyes of our followers, because that may blind them. Rather we can shine the light onto the path that we must walk together. In the end the light will judge us (John 3:17-21), but in the meantime, the goal is for our little pools of light to merge with the pools of light in those around us as the process by which we truly build the Kingdom of Heaven (1 John 1:7).

Being a pastor, I am probably a bit biased in my point of view. This article may not sit well with the prophets and teachers amongst us, but I think that is one of the great advantages of the space without spice concept, as well as our present graduation. We are all free to grow in the way that suits us best, because we are not one visible body.

I feel that being a pastor is more about "being" the light, whereas I think teaching is more about "shining" the light, and of course there is a time and place for both in the body of Christ. I know that seeing and understanding the truth is very important and it can be very frustrating to teachers when they say something over and over and people still don't get it. But if you remember that the only real and important change comes from within the person, it may help you to back off and give the person a bit more space. This is, of course, much easier to do when we keep reminding ourselves that we are not responsible for what they do, as they don't "belong" to us.

Shining the light is important and helpful but I think there are times when it can be inappropriate too. When someone feels like they need to find the light within themselves, then shining lights from outside can interfere and confuse that person's search for their light within. Shining a strong light through a window, willl naturally create more shadows and the light itself can be blinding.

People almost universally worry too much about what others think. That is an unfortunate part of human nature. This worry has led to a huge problem of people reacting to criticism instead of hearing it (myself included). And it seems like it is the number one problem we have in bringing people to the light and keeping them there. I see that a big part of that problem has come from pushing people to confront their problems and that has led to bitterness and fear in them, (i.e. it creates shadows in the person), so I thought that maybe we should try overlooking more weeds in the hope of seeing more genuine growth in people.

I can see a lot of potential problems with this approach, i.e. disunity, laziness, dishonesty, immorality, etc, but as I have said before, if the only genuine growth comes from inside the individual, then any disciplines imposed from the outside will not build the Kingdom of Heaven unless they are internalised by the individual anyway.

As long as we are human we will always be trapped in some from of human organisation (even if it's just the communication you have as an individual with others whom you trust), but the spiritual reality is that human organisations have little or nothing, to do with the Kingdom of Heaven. It is only when we as individuals choose to improve our own spirit that we will be truly building God's Kingdom.

We will never be perfect, but at least we can start working on what we think is important and the only person who can make you do that, is you.
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