January 13, 2007
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Here it is, over 10 years since I wrote a letter to those I was missing and wishing to see as one body in Christ. Obviously, in 10 years, things can change. I have recently decided to try and "refurbish" the content of IrvinCentral.COM, and thought I would start with the faith section. This led me to re-read the letter I wrote so long ago. In that letter I read what strikes me still as a heartfelt plea to my brothers and sisters. Yet, even I am now a former member of the WCG. MUCH has happened to us since that time. My wife and I have moved four times, had two children, we have been each through a significant career change, and our measures of faith have changed. I write this short letter just to set the record straight in relation to the previous letter.
It's pretty simple, really. Up to '96 I saw what I believed to be a church in 'self-evaluation'. The teaching as it was to that point, I could not totally accept or reject. I had personally believed, whether right or wrong, that a stagnancy had developed by the mid 90's, maybe a smugness about knowledge of God's Law, maybe a measuring stick of righteousness based on detailed knowledge that was more than observed in just a minister here or a brother/sister there, or myself. I was attracted to, and agreed with, a new approach to Biblical discussion that suggested righteousness could not be measured in how well one thought they knew God's Law or how one's self-perception was in relation to following it., but, rather, in how much one desired to follow God, no matter what level of "understanding" they had. I truly believed, and still do, that legalism, as its true meaning defines; righteousness measured by law, and even righteousness measured by amount of law; was being exposed church-wide, in myself included.
From my perspective, what I observed in the several years that followed was becoming yet another perversion in self-righteousness. The general tenor of any congregation seemed to start equating law and legalism. In other words, if you observed any "Old Covenant" laws, THIS IS legalism. I surely am not a person who can claim to understand. I must say that I cannot say from the heart that I KNOW God requires Sabbaths, Holy Days, or the observance of dietary laws, but my faith resides in the undying belief that God is in charge, that God knew every intricacy of his creation, MAN, before He even formed mankind out of the dust of the ground. What I do believe is that, as Jesus spoke, God did not make man for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man. For me, at this point, commanded or not, I believe that statement. God knows what we need, and it is up to us to accept that. I don't know if Holy Days are commanded, but I am certain their relevancy does not retreat with the "New Covenant". Should we observe them as Israel was commanded to observe them? You and I both know that is impossible. Not only do we reject sacrificial law as a response to the ultimate sacrifice made by Jesus, but we also do not live in that kind of society, where the whole culture revolved around a system intended to be governed over by a King, present in a nearby temple, who was God, Himself. The whole society was agrarian, EVERYBODY kept days, dressed a certain way, ate a certain way, etc. That said, do these laws still have relevance? I believe, absolutely.
I grew up eagerly anticipating any approaching Holy Day (Atonement, the least, I must confess), no matter the trials I would face. It did not matter to me that I was different in my society, even having to struggle to have the right to do so in my public school or on the job. I have lived in that and much prefer it over a system widely accepted that follows man's ideas about what is Holy to observe. I am satisfied in the belief that men did not fabricate these days, but God. Still, I look back and am repulsed at myself, that, in my struggle to get to "keep" these days, I made teachers, fellow students, employers, relatives, bend over backward (at least as they saw it) to accommodate my different lifestyle. I expected to be able to excel in school, keep my job, and be as fully accepted as any other member of my family. I look at our modern versions of these Holy Days and see they are still different than they were originally. Could it be that decisions about how to observe were just decisions of men, not God? I find no fault that an effort was made to adapt an old way to a new society. I find fault in its equation with a statement made by Jesus to Peter that, "whatever you bind on earth, I will bind in heaven". How convenient for us to assume that statement was meant for any who could profess to be the inheritors of Peter's authority. Has anybody considered the statement might have began and ended with that first dispensation of leadership?
I guess I could go on making no sense at all. I write this letter because, for some reason, I can't bring myself to remove the former letter from public reading. Since I am compelled to leave the former letter online, I feel I must confess my present situation. I quit attending Worldwide Church of God in 2003, when my local congregation decided to officially move worship services to Sunday. I have no problem whatsoever with worshipping and fellowshipping another time of the week, but I knew at that point, beyond any shadow of any doubt, actual Sabbath observance was officially rejected by the church. I guess I just could not do it in good conscience. Worse, yet, and to potentially remove any smidgen of value you may have gained from these writings, I have never chosen another church to attend. I'm just too confused, I guess. My spouse does not accept our previous ways, so we have different beliefs, now. Lack of trust in ministers, whether justified or not, and being unwilling to accept modern Christian ways, I stay home, try to make the Sabbath more restful, more observant, more family oriented. I try to remember a coming Holy Day and reflect on the teaching it provided. I do things I used to do, but adapted to that of one having no leaders to follow, living on my own little island. I do not recommend this choice, by the way, but I encourage you to never have itching ears, never rely on "faith" that is based on feeling or self-interest over Biblical instruction. I am not smug in my situation, but, at the same time, I am very hopeful. I wait on God to guide me and my family, and, without a doubt, I believe. The biggest spiritual disease is self-deception. Only you can determine if you are manipulating "God" into an image you will accept. I think of you all daily, and sometimes I pray about it.
Kelly M. Irvin