|Don't be That Christian
My daughter said the other day that what a lot of people don't realize is that the three biggest sins the New Testament condemns (at least, in the Letters) are 1) gossip, 2) gossip, and 3) gossip.
There's something to that. Certainly, Paul and others had a lot to say about the ordinary bad-mouthing of others that people do in church. About the things people say and do outside of church, they naturally had less to say -- not their circus, not their monkeys, as the saying goes. Still, I thought it would be fascinating to go through all the Letters and see what sins, exactly, the apostles accused their own followers of or warned them off from.
Such a census of disgracefulness is, of course, terribly one-sided. To be fair, I suppose I would have to go through and count up not only all the different things Paul, James, John, Peter, Jude, and the writer to the Hebrews condemned in Christians, but also all the things they commended them for. That would yield us a real Early Church ethic. But still, a rapid (and perhaps very inaccurate) count of things the apostles slammed the early Christians for might be instructive. So here they are.Miscellaneous transgressions: 9
Failure to perform duties to family 3, Gross physical transgressions: 35
Women not acting appropriately 3,
Marrying unbelievers 1
Sexual immorality, bodily passions, defilement 14,Religious or doctrinal transgressions: 41
Theft, greed, covetousness, love of money 12,
Drunkenness or love of drink 7,
Killing, violence 2
False teachers, frauds 21,General cussedness: 62
Apostasy, falling away, grieving the Holy Spirit, neglecting to meet together 10,
Idolatry, sorcery, superstition 7,
Disobedience to commandments (lawlessness) 2,
No love for the Lord 1
Boasting, casting aspersions, disobedience to authority, false accusations, hauteur 15,
Slander, gossip, lies 15,
Factions, jealousy, judging, lawsuits, quarreling, repaying evil for evil, bad company 14,
Bitterness, wrath, anger 10,
Reviling, filthy talk, loose talk, grumbling 7,
Showing partiality to the rich 1
All of which sort of vindicates Anna's insight, above. But it also dovetails with something I said years ago to the people running the General Commission on United Methodist Men -- about them, and about the rest of our Church, at all levels: congregations; conferences; agencies. I said, there are two reasons The UMC is dying: 1) we can't agree on what we believe and 2) we treat people like ____* And, to go on the incidence of admonitions given in the NT Letters, I'd say that how we treat people probably has a more direct bearing on our general church health than even our doctrine, though it pains my orthodoxy to say it.
Which is why, over and over again, you read things like, "Let love be genuine." (Romans 12:9) And, "Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth." (1 John 3:18) They learned that from their Master, who said, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:12)
That's still true. And it's still the test that all of us must pass -- or fail, utterly.
*Do I really have to spell it out?