Snakebites are common to humanity. Jesus said, “Offences come” (Matthew 18:7 KJV). Offenses do come! The tragic thing is that they often come through the people with whom we are closest.
-Pastor Chris Jackson
from Chapter 6: Snakebites
Loving God When You Don’t Love the Church: Opening the Door to Healing (Kindle Edition)
Pastor Jackson leverages Paul’s misadventure with a viper (see Acts 28:1-10) metaphorically to describe the injuries some people receive from others within Christian community. He also renders an interesting interpretation of the serpent in Gan Eden (Garden of Eden).
Of course those closest to us have the greatest capacity to create the deepest wounds (although Adam and Eve’s serpent and Paul’s viper weren’t all that close to them relationally). In this, I suppose my unfortunate set of final transactions with the Pastor at the church I used to attend applies since we had become friends over our two-year association. We haven’t spoken or exchanged so much as an email since that time and I doubt we ever will.
Interestingly enough, Pastor Jackson unwittingly gives a hint to one of the reasons:
In it, Peter quoted the Lord, saying “I lay in Zion a choice stone…a stone of stumbling and offense…” That doesn’t sound right does it? God lays a rock of offense in the middle of His Church?
Jackson clearly equates Zion with the Church, but Zion isn’t the Christian Church, it’s Israel, the Jewish people. Even for Christians who say they are opposed to supersessionism or what is also called replacement or fulfillment theology, once you say “the Church” was born in Acts 2 and that it’s the Church that, from that point forward, has all of God’s attention and not Israel, at the very least, you have diminished the power of God’s promises to Israel and elevated the (Gentile) Christian Church, to which God made no promises at all.
No, it’s not to say that God does not have a redemptive plan for the Gentile members of the ekklesia of Messiah, He just doesn’t have plans for this thing we’ve come to know as “the Church”.
That’s my stumbling block.
I’m convinced that the number-one cause of spiritual death among Christians is not outright demonic attacks, but snakebites.
I’m convinced that a lot of Christians attribute way too much trouble in their lives to evil supernatural forces and not enough to their own human natures. I think Jackson agrees with me here, but the whole concept of “demonic attacks” bothers me as even a potential causal element in our lives. People are all too well equipped to hurt each other. We don’t need outside help.
Do you know anyone who was bitten and then walked away from the faith?
Sure. We probably all do if we’re willing to admit it. I recall a conversation I once had with my former Pastor. As a younger man, he knew a Pastor in another country, a truly Godly man, or so he thought. Later in life, this man left his wife and took up with a younger woman. Pastor is a Calvinist and believes God pre-selected certain people for salvation. Since one discovers these people by their “fruits,” Pastor was convinced, based on this fellow’s lifetime history for the most part, that he was “chosen”. Pastor was baffled at the sudden and complete turn around and didn’t really know how to explain it.
My opinions on Calvinism aside, I’m a firm believer in free will. God is open and available to all human beings but He won’t hold a gun to our heads (so to speak). Although He empowers us to accept the offer to come to Him, we still have the power to refuse it or even once accepting, later refusing it.
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.
-2 Peter 2:20 (NASB)
I suppose all this answers Jackson’s question above. Coming to God is our choice, but ultimately, so is leaving Him.
Satan’s snakebites usually come from other people.
See my comment above about Christian attribution habits.
Shifting to Chapter 7: Tattooed: A Tale of Two Piercings:
There’s another form of tattooing in effect, though, that we can’t see with the naked eye. Oh, we can certainly see it–we can discern it–but it’s more of an internal tattoo. It’s a tattoo of the soul.
This is another metaphor of Jackson’s for our wounds or “the state of our soul.”
Next, Jackson spends a lot of time comparing “brokenness” and “woundedness”:
This is such an important question because Christlike brokenness can be used by God to powerfully catapult us along the path of our destinies, while woundedness will derail us before we ever begin.
He explains that there is no brokenness without wounding but you can be wounded without allowing yourself to experience “Christlike brokenness.” Brokenness allows a person to submit himself to God, while being wounded but unbroken is all about focusing on the pain and not the healer.
A broken man embraces correction. A wounded man fears correction.
How many of the Proverbs wisely advises accepting correction and discipline?
I’m actually intimidated by the question because I don’t like the answer I find in myself. One way to interpret all this is to submit to God by submitting to the Church. I know the Pastor at the church I used to attend probably believes that I need correction in the sense that I need to accept his doctrine over my current viewpoints.
But could I have handled all this any differently and would the outcome have resulted in something more positive coming out of my church experience?
There are four end of chapter questions and I think only the last one is relevant.
Are you committed to moving from woundedness to brokenness so that the beauty of the Lord can shine through you?
Jackson continues this theme in Chapter 8: It’s Hard To Be Beautiful:
Likewise, it takes time and focused effort for us to move from a wounded state to a broken one.
Assuming this speaks to me at any level, I guess there’s hope if I find that I’m currently wounded but unbroken.
And then he said:
As I meditated on those words, I felt the Lord speak to my heart.
I won’t quote what Jackson said the Lord said, but not being a mystic, I have a hard time believing that this Pastor heard, word for word, exactly what he wrote in his book. It’s another one of those things about certain Christian circles that don’t make a connection. On the other hand, some of the tales of the Chasidim are truly fantastic.
Quoting Psalm 23:3, Jackson says the Lord restores the soul, but practically in the same breath, he states:
…some people carry the sting of divorce, bereavement, betrayal and rejection for a lifetime without ever experiencing lasting freedom.
…the more we love the offender, the deeper the hurt we experience.
Which leads to…
…some wounds will go away over time, but others require outside assistance to be healed.
Also, true. Some wounds will heal with the simple application of a band-aid while others need stitches to stop the bleeding. Sometimes a computer just needs to be reboot, and on other occasions, it’s time to bring out the repair tools and open the machine’s cover.
We must repent. We must choose to forgive. We must process the hurt.
Very true. Especially the last part since I do an awful lot of processing here.
“I’ve seen enough in the church to make me an infidel,” the man said, “but I still have a made-up mind and determination to see what lies at the end of a successful Christian race!”
Which goes back to what I said before about free will. We can have a bad time in church and we can experience circumstances, something like the readers of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews, that prevent us from having fellowship as they were prevented from the prayers and offering korban at the Temple.
While my circumstances can’t be presupposed in Jackson’s narrative, he mentions another chronic situation encapsulated in the title of a sermon: “The Crisis of Spiritual Fatigue.”
I read a blog post just the other day about fatigue, being worn out, and needing a break.
Jackson says “one of the first things to go in our spiritual lives is the awe and wonder of simply knowing Jesus and being who He’s called us to be.”
I remember when I first became a believer, I was thrilled just to be able to read the Bible and go to church. It was all bright and shiny and new, like I had found an amazing treasure. I couldn’t wait to read more of the Bible, go to Sunday school, and learn more about Jesus and the “new man” I was in him.
I suppose it was the same way when I transitioned into the Hebrew Roots movement. All the “Jewish stuff” was bright and shiny and new, and I loved putting on a tallit and kippah and (very, very badly) saying the prayers from the little beginner’s siddur we used to use.
But like that new car smell eventually fades, so does the newness of faith. We have to put away all of the “stuff” and come to an understanding of God (or with God) on our own terms.
There is a difference between a life of faith and a life of community. Sure, they’re supposed to overlap significantly, but if you were stranded on the proverbial desert island, all alone with just a Bible, would you eventually lose faith because you had lost community, or would you gain faith by continually being alone with God without pesky humans there to get in the way?
Interestingly enough, on his blog, Pastor Jackson recently wrote about “holding patterns.” While he was addressing a person’s relationship with God being put on hold, I could equally apply his words to the relationship between an individual and religious community. Of these “holding patterns,” Jackson says in part:
They break us…or they make us. And just as our favorite Bible heroes taught us, how a person handles their holding patterns determines whether or not they’ll land in safety.
I’m like that man on the proverbial desert island except I have Internet access and a refrigerator. I’m not really alone, but if God does intend for me to be in community, then I guess I’ll have to wait for it, or make it myself through virtual means.
I’ll continue my review soon.