There are teachers. And there are “teachers”.
We have lots of teachers. Teachers are taught the right way and the wrong way. Teachers then teach the right way and the wrong way. It means everyone passes or fails. A lot us of us fail.
We have fewer “teachers” who see “each of us” and who are “one of us”. Who see sitting in the class no different to leading the class. Those kind of “teachers”.
Sadly there are a lot of knowledge teachers in church. Which is odd. Because all these teachers direct all of us to verses like this:
On another sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” He got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” After looking around at all of them, he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. Luke 6:6-11
We are directed by our teachers to know about “The Teacher” in action. Knowledge is easy. Too easy. The sad thing?
So is Love.
Once you get your head around NOT having to pass or fail at that as well. Love is not just knowledge. Love is more than knowledge. Because how do you teach someone how to Love unless you love them first? And that takes time. That takes “love” rather than just knowledge. And we don’t seem to “teach that” way of doing things. Knowledge is easy. Too easy. You can pass or fail when you teach and test knowledge.
And teachers who teach (so often) seem to have been taught only that. Churches (so often) seem to know only that. And congregations (so often) are given only that. Are taught a “God of knowledge” by “teachers of knowledge”. So the very place of “relationship with God” is so often the very place where relationship is only “knowledge about”. The very place where Love is “knowing about”. And congregations wonder why it is so unfulfilling. And the Church wonders why the world gives it a wide berth (apart from weddings and funerals – and sometimes christenings).
And so the Church goes to ”relationship counselling” (one committee at a time):
How do we get our message across so “they” understand? How do we continue to do what “we” do – and convince “them” we are right? How can we connect this knowledge with sinners, bad people, lost people – all the long list we don’t want corrupting us? How do we fill the pews (and just how do we fill our bank balances again)? Because this is about God! It is a righteous calling! We are right! We are saved! We are commanded to do this! How do we get our beautiful message across: We are right – and You are wrong?
With “a client” like that, any sane counsellor might think they had an uphill struggle!
Because the very “God” the Church is in love with, is a God all neatly wrapped up in holy scripture, righteous rules, and sacred spaces. Spaces we enter in fear and dread in case we offend God. An intellectual God taught by intellectual teachers to an increasingly disillusioned world.
A world that DOES know what Love is (and is not). Who knows real relationship (far better than the pretend relationship on offer in Church). A world that sees “relationship” with a God to be feared, to be scared of, to be careful of, who will judge you, who will send you to Hell if you dress the wrong way, speak the wrong way, mix with the wrong kind, are the wrong kind … who see this invitation of “All Are Welcome” to be riddled with rules.
Because that is not Relationship. That is not Freedom. That is not Love. That is not God set free – that is not Church set free – that is no one set free!
And the saddest thing of all? The very “Teacher” we are taught is the answer – is taught by the very same Church who cannot find “The Answer”!
And that is just plain weird!
So let’s bring God back to life. Let’s set church free to be what “The Teacher” taught and loved. Who loves each of us as we are – where we are – and what we are – who is The Answer (and not just for one hour each week).
Or is that too much “freedom”?