“We did everything adults would do. What went wrong?” – Piggy, Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
This book, Lord of the Flies, haunted me for some time after I read it. Mainly, I think, because I was young and possessed no real capacity to process the actions of the characters nor the outcome of the story. Also, I think, because I could see a little bit of me in each of the boys on that island. Again, I was young when I read the book (junior high, maybe?), and I was a rule follower (by and large); in other words, I would have done “everything adults would do.” And I would have been just as dumbfounded that things went wrong.
And this leads me to what I see in the Church today, and particularly in those desiring to meet outside the institution: we do everything we think Jesus would do.
The Church at large has fallen under the “what would Jesus do?” mentality. We look at the Jesus of the gospels, and we try to do what we think He would do in certain situations. We try to say what we think He would say in certain situations. We convince ourselves that we do everything Jesus would do. But then we find ourselves asking, “What went wrong?”
Those boys on that island wanted to set up a society based on what they thought adults did. But they had no capacity to understand why or how adults did those things. They weren’t adults! And there were no adults around to help them in this endeavor. So, the boys set up their society based on their interpretation of adult rules but operated in it out of their own, inexperienced, young lives. They wanted to live a certain way, but they ultimately did what they knew. And they quickly digressed into depravity.
We do the same thing with the Church. We want so badly to “do Church right,” but we end up doing what we know. What do we know? The world’s way of running a business. The world’s way of clubs or special interest groups. The world’s way of political or social justice. And that’s what we have in the Church today, by and large, is it not? We run our churches like any of the world’s examples, and we try to stamp Jesus’ name on it. We ask, “What would Jesus do?” And where do we get our answers? The Bible? History? Society?
Saints, the difference between adhering to a set of rules and actions and actually living by the indwelling Life of Another is the difference between death and life. One is religion, and one is the Body of a living, active Christ. One is to read the books, listen to the podcasts, and do everything “these people” say, and one is to have a New Life born within you. One is to desperately desire to get everything “right” or “by the book,” and one is to live by faith in the Author Himself.
Never mind the mega church or the institution down the street – why do organic expressions of our Lord struggle? Well, for lots of reasons, actually, but a big one is that we continue to try to get people to adhere to certain things without those people having the capacity to do them, let alone understanding why and how to do those things. We try to do everything Jesus did. But Jesus is still doing it! He lives! We act like He doesn’t, but He does! And we can’t understand diddly squat without His life born in us. Otherwise, we’ll try to “do Church” our way. Saints, this is His Church. He is building Her. Without His life, it ain’t hap’nin’.
Here’s the good news: Christ is with us and within us! He gives us the capacity to be His Church. He gives us the capacity to understand the why and how to what He’s currently doing today, not just what He did way back when. We don’t have to ask, “What would Jesus do?” We get to ask, together with other saints, “Jesus, what are You doing now?” And where do we get our answers to that question? From the Head Himself, Jesus Christ.
Here’s more good news: we’ll get it wrong. That’s good news? Well, yes. We’ll mess it up. We’ll get it wrong. We won’t look to the Lord, and we’ll take a misstep. But then we’ll repent and turn back to Him. We’ll deny our natural man and live by His life. And He’ll be right there. He’ll continue to build. He’ll write straight with crooked lines. And then we’ll do everything He’s doing. And we’ll leave it to the enemy to ask, “What went wrong?”