“He that hateth, will counterfeit with his lips, but in his heart he layeth up deceit. Though he speak favorably, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart. Hatred may be covered by deceit: but the malice thereof shall be discovered in the congregation” (Proverbs 26:24-26, Geneva Bible).
One of the results of being gathered into a group is that our inner nature is eventually brought out. In the Church we are shown to be servants or power-hungry, no matter what flattery or smiles we use. Our actions and motivations will be shown. This is one of the reasons God commands us to congregate with people who are different from us in race, socio-economic status, education, entertainment preference, etc., finding our unity in a common confession of the faith alone. God uses our differences in unity to expose us for what we really are as we interact with one another in the gathering of the Church. Those who cannot tolerate this nakedness will either be increasingly shamed in this nakedness (I’m still – after twenty years – reminded of Anne Rice’s description of vampires: they don’t change, they just become more of what they are) or will depart from the congregation of people different than themselves (the more we build a congregation on elements outside the confession – or refuse to be unified by confession – the less accountability there is as we build a group of people very much like ourselves by non-confessional standards).
God commands His children congregate in Him so that the non-Him elements in the members of the congregation are revealed for what they are...so that we may grow past them together.
I am struggling in this area of discipleship this morning. I’m on my third night of sleep deprivation, taking care of little ones in their illness. My bride leads a ladies’ class on Monday mornings, so I prepared a healthy breakfast for the children. While they were eating, I mixed some green chile in with an egg and threw it on the griddle for myself. Just before I put the mixture on a tortilla, the youngest gagged and vomited forth his banana, apples, milk, and honey-bun mixture (okay, the breakfast was mostly healthy). I remained calm in this, but I confess it was a fake calmness. In my heart, I was yelling, “what?! I don’t get to sleep or eat?!” Mess cleaned quickly for the benefit of the other children. Little one bathed and re-dressed. I took out my inner anger on the now-unappealing meal, throwing it away with more aggression than necessary (out of sight of little ones). Grrrrrr...deep breath. Lord, I am an impatient man. I can fake it so many times, but I am impatient deep down...sometimes to the point of feeling pretty unloving toward folks who trigger that impatience. I am a sinner in need of a Savior at every moment, and being around people who aren’t as enlightened and perfect (read heavy sarcasm here) as I am shows this very clearly.
It may not be vomit, but being in the gathered Church means that people will do things around me and say things to me that trigger my inner un-Christlikeness very quickly. It’d be easy to leave them and identify with a group of people as awesome as myself, but I wouldn’t grow there...except in the area of my own self-worship and self-righteousness. I need you to show me to be what I am, that I may be thrown more and more upon God’s mercy and grace in Christ and molded by the Spirit into the image of the One Who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I cannot do that alone, and I cannot do that with those who are more or less clones of myself. What I am will be discovered in the congregation, that I may be conformed to the image of the Son.
On Monday mornings and many other times, there are seven abominations in me that I will never be rid of apart from the Spirit’s means of exposing them and excising them from my being: the gathered Church.