Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Above Reproach

Twenty-five years ago my husband belonged to a Christian singing group that toured the country. The organization had strict regulations on what its members could or could not do. Women were NEVER allowed to wear pants, not even to exercise. They wore culottes (sort of a skirt looking thing with a split legs). Men could not have facial hair and were required to shave every day whether they needed to or not. Sandy Patty was too radical for music. They were only allowed to read the King James version of the Bible. If a member was over their "tour weight", they didn't get to perform. Many people would call their rules radical and legalistic. Since they were performing in churches across the country, they thought it important to be careful to offend no one. They were staying above reproach.

It's a good concept. I understand the theory behind their thinking even if I find the rules outrageous. Many Christians today wish to do the same, keep themselves set apart from the world and above reproach of their fellow believers, but I wonder if we are fooling ourselves.

Is it truly possible to stay above reproach?

My husband and I write programs and musicals for our church. We spend MONTHS researching facts and searching out what God says about things in His Word. We start praying about and for the Christmas musical at least as early as May. We understand the great responsibility and know apart from God our efforts mean nothing, yet not a production goes by where we don't hear criticism about something. We are NOT above reproach. But we feel completely in God's will doing what we do. How do you explain that?

If we stay "safe" as Christians, other believers may say we aren't "relevant". If we try to be "authentic", we're blamed for being "worldly". Why is it so hard for us to see eye to eye on things? How can we miss recognizing God's Spirit in each other? Why does God give us such differing opinions?

What are your thoughts? Have you found a way to stay above reproach?

22 comments:

maudie-mae said...

I knew of a group like this called the Agape Players out of Castleberry, Florida. Legalism doesn't equate to being above reproach. Being above reproach is being salt and light to a dying, dark world. It's creating a thirst for Living Water. And it means being true to yourself, because that's how God made you.

Tami Boesiger said...

WOW, maudie-mae, you nailed it! My husband WAS a part of Agape Players (except his group was based out of Lake Wales, FL--same thing?) for a brief time, up until the ministry folded up due to "sin in the leadership".

I understand your point that being above reproach does not mean being oppressive and I keep hearing God tell me to be who He has created me to be, yet even being who I am can invite criticism from other believers. It seems impossible to escape it no matter how "good" and "clean" I try to be.

Thanks for chiming in on this topic! Obviously I need some help and perspective.

Brenda said...

I grew up in a very legalist church. I think it is possible to stay above reproach in God's eyes but not to stay above criticism in man's. I think it is a common sin for us to see other's through Pharasaical eyes instead of through God's eyes.

Tami Boesiger said...

Wow, Brenda, wow. Yours are wise words indeed. They speak volumes. Thanks!

Emiley said...

Hey Tami. I was just praying last night that God would help me to stop worrying so much about what others think of me and to focus only on what he thinks. I think that this falls under that category. He's the only one we have to answer to, so his opinion is the only one that counts....as much as others like to share their opinions with us! :-)

Jaime said...

We talked about this in our Bible study a lot when we did Yancey's book on grace. My thoughts are this...in any situation (whether work, family relationships, friendships, etc) you will never please everyone and someone will always find something about you to criticize. So why should we expect anything different in relation to our spiritual walk? What we must aim for is our relationship with God and trying to please Him. We're going to get criticized no matter whether we are Christian or not. I realize that when others find out you're a Christian it's like you're to behave according to a higher standard, but isn't the goal in our Christian walk to please God and not others? We're going to fall and screw up. We're going to let others (and God) down. It's how we respond to our screw-ups that ultimately matters and how our heart aligns with God. Ultimately, the only one who will ever REALLY know where our heart is, is God. (Good thing His opinion is the only one who matters, huh?!)

Living Beyond said...

Oh lady - what a topic - what a thought. Above Reproach!

Reproach = faultless, without blemish, free from imperfections.

Impossible for me and probably another reason why I called my blog Living Beyond Myself - it is beyond me.

1 Tim 1:3
An overseer, then, must be above reproach.

It has to be a Spirit thing in my life to be able to live one hour at a time being filled and led by the Spirit so that in some way I may live above reproach in the eyes of the Lord. I am thankful that Jesus is my righteousness and that His blood covers me.

Now are there times when the Spirit shouts loud to me and I just know the things I should or should not be doing - that is obedience and I think one of the fruits of obedience is that we are then able to live beyond reproach in that certain area. Legalism is the man made shout not a Spirit shout.

Reproach = irreprehensible, designating one who affords nothing upon which an adversary might seize, in order to make a charge against him.

Isaiah 51:7
"Listen to Me, you who know righteousness,
A people in whose heart is My law;
Do not fear the reproach of man.

Living above reproach in the eyes of man is the hardest - we will always be unfairly judged, critisiced, treated - even among Christians. But God tells us not to fear THEIR reproach because He knows those whose hearts are about His ways.

I find comfort in the verse below whenever I feel the reproach of man although my heart is seeking the Lord

Jeremiah 15:15
You understand, O LORD; remember me and care for me. Avenge me on my persecutors. You are long-suffering—do not take me away; think of how I suffer reproach for your sake.

OK rambled on there - but I guess I was thinking out loud myself. Thanks for the chance to think lol!!

Tami Boesiger said...

Emiley and Jaime--you guys are nailing me on the "who are you trying to please" thing. I hear ya. I know. I need to forget about the praise of men.

Living Beyond--THANK YOU for the verses, especially Jeremiah 15:15. The theme of the answers I'm getting remains consistent. I don't have to please others, only my God. So I pray He will guide my every step (I've been memorizing verses on this the last few weeks) and that I do nothing to bring him dishonor, despite what others may think. Thanks for the shot in the arm.

Dianne said...

My only thought on this - was Jesus above reproach? In the gospels, I think we constantly see him being reproached, by everyone and anyone. Was living above reproach ever his goal? I just don't see that.

Good food for thought!

Kelly said...

Interesting and thought provoking post, Tami. As I've thought about it, Scripture seems to speak to two different aspects of being "above reproach." Positionally and practically. Postitionally before the Lord as a child of His saved by grace through faith because of what Christ did for us on the cross -- we ARE above reproach -- God declares us holy based on Christ's righteousness and not our own. Legalism seems to be that outward attempt to try to declare ourselves righteous or somehow worthy of His gift of grace. It's all about HIM, not us!

Nonetheless, practically, day by day, we are to be about matching our practice with the very postion He has given to us. Walking in a manner worthy of our calling (Col. 1:10), adorning the doctrine of God our Savior (Titus 2:5,8,10), conducting ourselves with wisdom towards outsiders(Col. 4:5), keeping our behavior excellent (I Peter 2:12), not looking out for our own personal interests (Phil. 2:2-5) and pursing the things that make for peace and the builing up of one another. (Rom. 14:19). And how many of these verse conclude with, "So that the word of God may not be dishonored" or "so that God will be glorified!" This is to be our goal!

Instead of asking, "What will people think about ME if I do this or that?", it seems our question should be "What will people think about my God and what I say about Him?" Unfortunately, in our churches and in our lives today, we have a such a low view of God and are way too man-centered. Our decisions and daily choices fail to reflect and point others to our God who like NO OTHER! (Isaiah 40:18-26) I certainly do think we can live our lives in such a way that we do not dishonor or disgrace God's Word as we focus on His attributes and His character and respond by diligently pursing obedience in our lives. How I have to constantly remind myself, it's not about ME, its about HIM!!

Praying for you and Kevin as you seek to draw others through music to fall down and worship our God!

Tami Boesiger said...

You guys are continually challenging me. Thanks for the dialogue on this. You force me to comment (I know, it's no great feat.).

Dianne--I love your point about Jesus not living to be above the reproach of man. You're right. It makes me wonder if this living above reproach thing has been twisted by Satan to pit man against each other.

Kelly--Great thoughts on this. I agree we are already above reproach because of our association with Christ to begin with and that we spend our lives trying to be worthy of that calling.

As far as living our lives in a way that does or does not honor God, I think that can be subjective. What I consider honoring, someone else may not. For instance, we are doing a summer production called "The Parables of Vaudeville". It is a vaudeville show of seven acts, each act presenting a parable. The show is very silly and light-hearted, but relays presents God's Word. Some may think we present the parables in a fresh way causing people to read them again, but others may think the goofiness is dishonoring to God's Word. See my dilemma?

The conclusion of the matter for me is that this is what God has asked of us so we do it, regardless of what others may think. But I'd be lying if I said it doesn't bother me when some don't like what we do.

Please do pray for us. We desperately want to be faithful to God's calling. Thanks for your comments!

Kelly said...

Hey Tami - Me again -- I see your dilemma and can relate in many ways as we oversee the children's ministry here in our church. Anytime you are the one who oversees a particularly ministry, there is such a weighty responsibility that is entrusted to you -- and one you don't want to take lightly.

We kind of were faced with that same situation as the children are sometimes allowed to watch videos during the Sunday School time. Convicted by I Timothy 3:15 that the church especially is to be "a pillar and support of the truth," we made the decision that we would not allow for Veggie Tales to be a seen while the kids are under our care. We weren't telling parents they were wrong if they let their children watch them at home, and I understand that VT has maybe exposed many to Bible stories in a way they may not have thought about it. But for me, when I saw the retelling of Joshua and Jericho and there is a scene where "the angel of the Lord" is depicted and Larry the Cucumber fell before him in kind of a silly way -- to be the goofiness dumbed down the holiness of God to make a point. That, to me, is a failure to glorify God as I desire so much for these little kids to have a high view of Him!

Yes, there is a great amount of subjectivity to the decisions we make -- yet, ultimately, there is objective truth we can obey and submit to that provides clear guidelines for how we can be pleasing to the Lord, otherwise, God would not have said He has given us "everything we need for life and godliness." (II Peter 1:2-11)

The whole idea of God's glory has been something that has really been challenging me as we oversee this ministry here. I say it and I pray it all the time, "I want God to be glorified," but decided to really think about what that means. I came across this definition and explanation: "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. God has always been and always will be infinitely glorious without man's help, and He, therefore, cannot become any more or less glorious than He is and always has been. Glorifying God, then does not mean making God more glorious and supreme. Rather, glorifying God means acknowledging, making known, delighting in, reflecting and valuing the awesome and lovely majesty of God's perfect character. Put another way, glorifying God simply means calling attention to the infinite value and excellency of our great God. Our one passion and desire in all of life will become to see more and more of Him."

How I want to live my life in such a way that I am "calling attention to the INFINITE value and excellency of our great God -- as I know you do, too!! We have such a privilege to serve Him and to be entrusted with doing it in such a public way as we minister in the local body. How we want to, truly, be "above reproach."

Understanding this responsibility, again, just know that I am, indeed, praying for you and Kevin and ask you to continue to do the same for us! To God ALONE be the glory!

Love ya, Mucher - Mrs. B! :)

Living Beyond said...

Oh man ministry is to hard sometimes - come Lord Jesus Come - he knows our hearts and our intents - why do we need to pull each other apart. I'm in your corner Tami and I understand your pain.

Blessings on you - your reward is huge in the heavenlies

Living Beyond said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...

Tami,

You have received some excellent comments. I know your heart is to do what is right. I believe you endeavor to "live above reproach" as a believer who loves Jesus and knows the truth.

Personally the play you mentioned above does not fit into the criteria of being something that would be a "stumbling block to the gospel". (my opinion anyhow...)

I believe as you continue to pray and seek the Lord he will direct you. (I'll be praying for you too!)

Thanks for throwing this out there for us.

...and in multitude of counsellors there is safety. (Prov. 24:6)

Let us know what you decide♥


I'll pray for God to give you wisdom, and peace to follow.

Let us know what you decide!

Thanks for putting this out here, you gave us all something to ponder.

Blessings

Susan said...

OOPS, sorry about the typo error. I did spell check on word and copied it twice, oh boy!!

Tami Boesiger said...

Thanks to all of you who put your neck out there to comment on this post. You have all made me think. (One of my favorite things!)

Betsy Markman said...

(I hope this doesn't post twice. Something seemed to go wrong the first time I tried to post it, so I'm re-trying.)

There are so many great comments here!

Was Jesus above reproach? Of course!

Imagine a drunk man walking up to Michelangelo's statue of David. This guys is so drunk that he says, "I have two heads, and everyone I know has two heads. This sculptor didn't know what he was doing, making a man with one head!" The drunk man reproached the sculptor, but the sculptor remained "above reproach" because he didn't deserve the reproach that he received.

Sin makes people crazy and incapable of judging properly, just like alcohol does. That's why we're commanded not to fear their reproach.

I think this is perfectly illustrated in 1 Pet. 2:12 - "having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation." This says that people will speak against us, but "on the day of visitation," when they stand before God, they will have to confess God's glory in the work that He did through His people.

So how do we stay above reproach? By making every effort to do everything to His glory, enlightened by His Word, guided by His Spirit, and motivated by love for Him.

Just a word of caution, though. Don't fail to learn from others. Sometimes we don't deserve reproach, but sometimes we really do need to learn from it. Don't fear people, or what they think or say. Bring their reproaches to God and humbly ask Him to show you if there is anything He's trying to teach you through them. That takes humility, and it's a beautiful thing.

Well, enough from me! I'm glad to have found your site. I like your heart for God!

maudie-mae said...

I did a google search for the Agape players and came upon this post, which I have already weighed in with a comment, but I do have one more thought (sometimes it's good to go revisit what we've said once in a while) -- and that is this: it is not our part to be offensive in our Christian walk because the Gospel is offensive to those who are without it. By staying true to the Word of God, we will offend and that cannot be avoided. It boils down to heart attitude.

Agape Players were in Castleberry, FL, in the 1970's. A girl I went to school with tried out for and was accepted for the troup. I won't tell the indignities she had to endure as one of the Players.

Anonymous said...

I was a member of the Agape Players for 1975-1981 and it was the most wonderful experience of my life. It was my dream job. I did everything I ever wanted to do. It was during that time as a new christian that I grew the most and developed a love for His word.

It was a very conservative, if not strict environment to be sure. Having team members from all walks of life and backgrounds was probably the motivation for such an environment. Trying to get everyone on the same page was no easy task.

It was not without it problems and no ministry is. Being fatally flawed ourselves through our sin natures, it does affect those endeavors that we are involved in. It did end (after I left) on a very sad note due to tolerated sin. Yet, I am all the more confident that He led me those six years in that ministry. I met one of the godliest persons I know, my wife. We were married while there and had our first child in Lake Wales, Fl.

I learned so much while on Agape and from the other posts, I agree that striving to live a godly and holy life will not be without criticism. It is easy to be misunderstood since only the Lord knows the heart.

Finally, I want to say that I do not know what year or years your husband was on Agape, but when I was there, girls frequently wore pants when traveling overnight and during the winter; never culottes. For the sake of not offending anyone, the girls would change into skirts/dresses before disembarking from the motor home.

It was a wonderful time for me. I cherish the memories.

Anonymous said...

i was with that group, the agape players in the late 1970s. when i first went the rules were strict and a little legalistic, but i knew that before i went and was able to minister with them even though i thought some of the rules were silly. as the years went by agape become more and more legalistic. more and more separatist. then in 1985 it all came crashing down because the leadership, those at the very top, were caught in homosexual sin and were unrepentant. i think things got more and more legalistic and the leader became more and more controlling to hide their sin. God used the agape players and i am thankful for my time there because i made many friends who i am still in contact with. but God could not let that ministry continue with such blatant sin and disobedience.

Susan Schweitzer said...

Alice Adkins passed away April 2 2015 A memorial will be April 11 at Grace Bible Baptist Leesburg Fl