Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Christian Guard and Comforter

I have seen these two types of Christians in all the denominations I have visited. Of course, I have generalized in my labeling of them as Guards and Comforters, but you will recognize the stereotypes anyway.

These two types of Christians play important and complementary roles in the Body of Christ. And often they become leaders in the different churches.

Something I have noticed. No matter WHAT the doctrine being taught--whether it be the terrors of hell or the great mercy of the Cross these types will present it in an opposite way.

The Guard:
These Christians tend towards wanting clarity at the expense of anything else. Clearly give them the rules, the boundaries, the doctrines and that is what makes them feel safe. St. James' epistle seems to indicate that he was a guardian.

When Guards are in charge of children, they can spend more time dealing with the negative consequences of the wrongdoing than the positive, (as often, when they were young, they tried to get away with things). So they can be suspicious and feel that the way you keep other's in line is to tell them the worst case scenario. While they are excellent at clarity and actions, if you give them the sweetest doctrine on the planet, they can then turn around and make it sound stern. They are often mislabeled "legalists" because they need structure. They are often misunderstood as not comprehending the gospel.

However, when you get to know the perspective and motivation of Guards, they are really trying their best. They fear loved ones not making it to heaven and truly believe that "scaring the hell out of them" is the most effective way of getting through to other's hardened hearts.

Many guardians are in their late fifties and older and grew up in a Guard authoritarian culture. Guards worry a lot about young people not taking sin seriously enough. (Although after the laxness of the 1960 and 1970's, there are many countercultural Guardians in this upcoming generation!)

The Comforter:
These Christians can make hell look like a blessing. They don't focus on any boundaries and always encourage and sympathize with people. They preach grace, grace, grace and that God is good and nothing more. They are often mislabeled as those who preach "free grace." If you tried really hard as a kid and were conscientious, my guess is you grew up to be a Comforter.

They believe everyone is nice and trying their best. They are sensitive and discourage easily with criticism or confrontation. They are the type that do not work well under the threats of the Guards and fear never motivates them. Because of this this, are voracious advocates for the underdog. They want all people to just get along.

Whether an Adventist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Catholic.... any of these, your view of your church was shaped by one of these types. Usually, those raised or taught by a Comforter will not understand the negativity of their church by someone raised or taught by a Guard.

That is why there are Adventists who can look at Ellen White's writings and see nary a thing wrong. Because she was presented to them by a Comforter. Everything was in the context of love and mercy. These people do not understand Former SDAs. They actually believe that the doctrines of Adventism are faith-oriented and merciful. And if you had been taught by the same people you probably would too! I know I was brought up in this context. They can't imagine seeing anything within Ellen's writings that might be negative. Their Comforter teachers gave them rose-colored glasses.

These Comforters are in every single denomination and religion. So, if your religious instruction was from these people, my guess is that you love your religion. One of the problems with this is that you can't test the doctrines for biblical accuracy, because you were taught to see them in a very positive light.

If your teachers were the Guards, then you might always associate oppression and darkness with even the most positive of beliefs. Nuns could have rapped you on the hand and told you that you were going to hell if you missed Sunday mass. You could have had a Calvinist Grandmother who was as mean as a snake and when she read the Bible, her interpretation made you shake in your boots. Sabbath might have been the day from hell for you because your parents were Guards.

In fact, as Christians we need both Guards and Comforters to balance each other out. However, we need to recognize which type raised us and take off the glasses--either pinky positive or dark and look at the doctrines themselves.

Be aware that night vision googles given you by Comforters can make even the darkest doctrines look clear and bright. Also, some of the most luminous and precious doctrines can be clouded by welding googles given by the Guards.

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