A Parable About Government and Church Oppression
"I see humanity as a herd of cattle inside a fence enclosure. Outside the fence are green pastures with plenty for the cattle to eat, while inside the fence there is not quite grass enough for the cattle. Consequently, the cattle are trampling underfoot what little grass there is and goring each other to death in their struggle for existence.
"I saw the owner of the herd come to them and when he saw their pitiable condition he was filled with compassion for them, and thought what he could do to improve their condition. So he called his friends together and asked them to assist him in cutting the grass from outside the fence and throwing it over the fence to the cattle. And they called that charity.
"Then, because the calves were dying off and not growing into serviceable cattle, he arranged that they should each have a liter of milk every morning for breakfast. Because they were dying off in the cold night he put up beautiful well-drained and well-ventilated cow sheds for the cattle. Because they were goring each other in the struggle for existence he put corks on the horns of the cattle so that the wounds they gave each other might not be so serious. Then he reserved a part of the enclosure for the old bulls and the old cows over seventy years of age. In fact, he did everything he could do to improve the conditions of the cattle.
"And when they asked him why he did not do the obvious thing - break down the fences and let the cattle out, he answered: 'If I let the cattle out, I should no longer be able to milk them.'" (Leo Tolstoy)
When the famous Russian writer Tolstoy wrote this parable I have no doubt that he very much had governments and political systems In mind. Whatever his thinking may have been, however, it is an eloquent and honest plea to free the human spirit from the prison of human oppression. The parable has such a universal meaning that one could equally apply it to religion as to governmental institutions and other so-called "charitable" organisations.
Governments and religious organisations like to fence people in. They will do everything they can to please them and make them comfortable so long as they have the "last say" and can hold the ultimate power or authority. They like to erect fancy buildings (national monuments, churches), feed them (indoctrinate, preach), protect the people from each other (police force, priesthood) and take care of the old (preserve the status quo). Not that there is anything wrong in building, feeding, protecting and caring - it's your ulterior motive that is important.
The great and glorious message of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) is salvation. It promises to free man from everything that oppresses and fences his soul in. Unfortunately, the history of Christianity, in all its forms, reveals a reality that is far from this rosy ideal. For Christian Churches have probably done as much to fence-in mankind as the worst of their secular rivals. And they have done so by twisting the central message of Christianity which is that Christ saves - they have substituted the salvation of Christ for the salvation of the Church.
If you are sick and I have the medicine to cure you, you know that it doesn't matter a fig whether you drink your medicine from a crystal-cut wine glass, a pewter beer mug, a wooden cup, or a teaspoon. But that is exactly what the churches do tell you - they say that you must drink from their cup, and their cup alone.
There is, in my mind, a world of difference between Christianity and Churchianity. Christianity is the Gospel of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) - that He alone is Saviour. Churchianity, on the other hand, is the Gospel of the Church - that only the Church or Organisation can mediate salvation. Churchianity puts fences around the people and milks them; Christianity allows a man to be free in Christ.
This is not, of course, to say that we should each of us go our own way and do our own private thing. This is not to say that the Church or Messianic Community is not needed any more than it is to say that we don't need a vessel to drink our medicine from. What I am saying is that it is the medicine alone that is the curative agent, as Christ alone is the agent of salvation. The cup can no more heal the sick person than the Church can save the sinner.
Go to any number of Churches in the world and you will find the majority of them telling you that salvation can only be obtained by partaking of their sacraments or accepting their authority. Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and many others will tell you that only they are able to dispense salvation. Outside of their institutions, you will be told, the soul is doomed to wander into oblivion, like cattle without a fence to pen them in.
Just as the cup serves only to aid the patient drinking his medicine, so the Church institution serves only to be a directing vessel of Christ's love and healing. Once the patient is fully restored to health and no more medicine is required, so the cup no longer has a purpose. Likewise, once the Church has served its rôle to bring people to perfection in Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), it has no further function. Like the medicine cup, it must pass away (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).
The Church as an organisation is not an eternal institution. It exists only to be the vessel of Christ until the saints have reached perfection. It may be vitally important in the perfection process, but that importance must never be overstated in such a way that it acquires the attributes of an independent existence all of its own. For the New Testament definition of the Church is never as an organis- ation but as a living organism consisting of people. It is described as the ekklesia (assembly) and the koinonia (fellowship). The Church is the saved in Christ, and nothing more. And what is interesting is the fact that whilst the false world system, Babylon, is described in the Bible as an organisation in and of itself, that same attribute is never ascribed to the Church. Because the true Church is living - being composed of souls redeemed in Christ - it can never apostatise or fall away. It is individual people and systems that apostatise and fall, never the saved Body as a whole.
When Churches cease being living organisms and exist to be organisations for themselves, they at best compete with Christ and at worse supplant Him. When that happens you have a 'Christian' cult.
It is unfortunate that the word 'church', which derives from the Latin circe, meaning a 'circus', has entered our vocabulary, for it has indeed become a circus to millions of souls trapped within its fence. A far better word, and the one which is actually used in the New Testament, is community. When saved souls gather together, they are described as an assembly. Those who are saved in Christ are therefore properly called the Messianic Community or the Assembly of Yahweh (Yahweh being the proper Name for God). Since the Old Covenant nation of Israel is also called the 'Assembly of Yahweh', the New Covenant Israel consisting of the redeemed in Christ is properly called the B'rit Chadashah Assembly of Yahweh (or New Covenant Church of God).
The Messianic Community or Church is properly viewed as an assembly of the redeemed in a living, dynamic relationship with Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). We are informed in the New Testament that salvation is both an individual as well as a communal experience. This means that whilst we begin our Christian life as a solo-Christian, this is not how we are supposed to continue or end it. The consummation of our relationship to Christ is depicted in the Book of Revelation as an allegorical marriage of all the saved to Christ the Bridegroom. Being, then, that we are in a spiritual marriage relationship with Him, it follows that we shall always be together as a community or family. People marry to stay together, not to drift apart. In this respect, then, the Church is most certainly an eternal reality: we were built to be in eternally loving relationships with one another and with Yahweh our Heavenly Father through the atonement of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ).
Every family, as we know, must be organised to function properly, and this is true for the Church or Messianic Community too. It is for this reason that Christ has set over the Church first apostles, second prophets, and third teachers whose responsibility, like parents, is to nurture the saints until they have attained perfection (1 Corinthians 12:28). Each member of the local church or assembly has been given gifts unique to him- or herself so that everyone can be benefited from them. Everybody has a calling or a stewardship to be a blessing to the others. This calling is both a freedom and a limitation because Christian disciple- ship is both about being liberated from the imprisoning effects of man-made fences and about voluntarily self- enclosure. We are to freely erect Yahweh's fences.
The idea that we are called to erect our own fences in accordance with the Word of God given in the Bible comes as a surprise to many. That fences are needed must surely be obvious otherwise the cattle would wander off completely and become separated, and perhaps lost. We are not so clever as to not require restrictions. These restrictions are called Torah or "Law" and consist of the rules which our loving Heavenly Father has given for our spiritual well- being. Their purpose is not to imprison but to protect us.
The New Covenant Church of God is therefore not only a community of the redeemed and a living fellowship or organism consisting of Christians co-operatively labouring together to bless and edify one another through the mutual sharing of their resources and giftedness, but it is also structured in such a way that souls seeking the perfection of Christ can move at their own pace. The life of the saved soul revolves around one principle only, and that is love - love for Yahweh and love for one's neighbour. Everything else that the living Church or Community does radiates outwards from this primary motivation and impulse.
Once a soul is touched by the love of Yahweh revealed through the redemption life of Christ through the Cross, he at once begins to understand that he must apply the fences which are the Torah (Law) in order to not to harm his brother or sister in Christ. He thus understands how harmful theft and adultery are, for example, and willingly disciplines himself not to do these things out of obedience to the Ten Commandments until such obedience becomes natural, joyful and liberating, which happens as a soul becomes progressively sanctified in Christ. As he self-disciplines and limits himself, thus demonstrating his love for God and man, so he qualifies himself for positions of responsibility in the Messianic Community as a Deacon or an Elder to so guide and support others to so do the same.
As we attain perfection through sanctification, the need for fences disappears altogether, because we will naturally wish to stay together within Yahweh's Torah (Law). The fold becomes our precious family and spiritual home. By this means we attain true spiritual liberation. We invite you to come are share in that with us by contacting a local NCCG congregation.
From a pamphlet originally published in 1989
This page was created on 20 August 2009
Last updated on 20 August 2009
Copyright © 1989-2009 NCCG