In Searching For The Line, You Miss The Point.

In Searching For The Line, You Miss The Point.

Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community by Brett McCracken

Together Empty Church is embracing the uncomfortable. Join us as we dig into Brett McCracken's new book Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community and uncover all the parts that make us uneasy about our faith, uneasy about being friends, and uneasy about building a church that realizes that comfort is not the goal of Christiantiy.

As I read through the first few pages of chapter 3 on Uncomfortable Holiness,  I remembered the first time I was introduced to the concept of being “set apart unto God.” It was 1997 and everyone was obsessed with the love story of Jack and Rose. You couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing Celine Dion belting out a ballad about true love. I had been learning the piano for a few years and desperately wanted to master the hauntingly beautiful medley. I practiced whenever and wherever I could; at home, at school, and one Sunday afternoon — at church. 

I can’t remember why, but we were at church early for the evening service. No one else was in the sanctuary. My Dad was in the office talking to the Pastor, I think, so I took the opportunity to practice on the beautiful baby grand piano. I remember it was one of the first times I played the song completely from memory and with very little mistakes. I was so proud of myself, elated really, but then my Dad came in with a look of disapproval and said “Don’t you know that these instruments were dedicated to God? They’re meant to be set apart for worship, not for secular music. I don’t think you should be playing.”

People, places, and things. 

I suppose I understood a church building being a place set apart to worship God. I had not, until this point, thought about things being set apart to worship God. My young mind started to ask a million questions a minute. 

  • Does this mean you can only play worship music? 
  • What about some of the Christmas carols we sing like Jingle Bells? That’s not really worship.  
  • How about classical music? There are no words defining it as secular. What if the musician offers  a classical piece as an offering to God thanking Him for the gift he’s been given? 

Asking these questions is like drawing a box around the piano and trying to determine how wide to make it and where the line is drawn determines what is and is not acceptable in the box. 

Before you know it, you have boxes around church bindings and things found within them, maybe even some things in your own home like a notebook you’ve reserved as a prayer journal. But reading this chapter made me realize that the lines should really be drawn around us as people. 

What’s the point? 

We subconsciously do this anyway. We set up boundaries and limits (lines) for different situations. Like Brett saying he would never get drunk again became his limit, but in the intro he says his dream church would have a place for people to enjoy a good glass of scotch. So he’s made margin for that in his box. I know many other people, myself included, that have asked questions to find where to draw the line:

  • Should I not drink at all? 
  • What about just wine? Paul said a little is good for the stomach.  
  • Wine was Jesus’ first miracle, if it was taboo he wouldn’t have done that, right? 
  • It’s the excess that makes it sin, one drink isn’t bad. 

In searching for that line we miss the point. Setting up all of these complicated rules for ourselves as to not mess up is not the point. Living in such a way that we find ourselves more concerned with pleasing God than pleasing ourselves or others is the point. 

What makes me uncomfortable about holiness? 

I’ve been asking myself and will continue to ask through the series what makes me uncomfortable about the topic we’re discussing. Holiness makes me uncomfortable because I like lines. I like rules. I like black and white and knowing with 100% certainty what I should and should not do. But I realize as I’m arguing where these lines should be, I miss the point of why they’ve being drawn. Sometimes you have to accept the gray area. I think grace is found in the grey area. Our sin is black, God’s holiness is white, the grace we have in Jesus is the grey area that allows us to be forgiven when we don’t deserve it. Does that mean we should walk the line knowing we’ll have grace to fall back on if we cross it? I don’t think so. In fact someone once told me that the line shouldn’t be viewed as a boundary to tell you where to stop but rather as an indicator that you’ve strayed too far. 

About the Author | Sarah Schaidt
I love web design, my family, photography, traveling, music, Jesus, sleep, and Food Network (not necessarily in that order).

This American Church
A place for exploring the Church in the American context. Issues may get political, cultural, and philosophical — but it’s always personal.

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