Apr. 19, 2017

Bless be the tie that strangles...

John Fawcett was an unorthodox Baptist pastor in England during the mid-1700’s and early 1800’s. Fawcett accepted the call to his first church in 1765 soon after his ordination. The church in Wainsgate, England was a portion of the population that the organized church decided not to touch. The people were deemed as “hopeless pagans with wild tempers and far too many vices to be reached.” The Fawcetts fell in love with these people. John and Mary Fawcett loved them all the way to Jesus.

Rumor has it that the Fawcetts were offered a position in a financially lucrative church in a much more acceptable part of London. They broke the news to their poor little congregation and set out to preach their final sermon. The story goes that the congregation was sorrowful to the point of despondency. The  Fawcetts loaded up all of their belongings in a wagon and were headed out when Mary shouted, “I can’t stand it, John! I know not how to go.” John responded, “Lord, help me Mary, nor can I stand it! We will unload the wagon.” [To the crowd], “We’ve changed our minds! We are going to stay!” The scene moved from tears to praise in a matter of minutes.

Fawcett remained in Wainsgate for 54 years. It is not known if this hymn was written at the time of his decision to leave or to remain in Wainsgate (1). I believe the words describe the heartfelt unity and Christ-like humility that should be found among believers.

  (1) From the works of Dr. C. Michael Hawn, Professor of Sacred Music at Perkins School of Theology,  SMU.

“Blest Be the Tie That Binds”
-- John Fawcett

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

When we listen with ears of judgement, we always find something wrong. When we listen through hearts of grace, we discover something wonderful. God can (and does) move in a variety of ways through a diverse group of people.

I believe the greatest sins in today’s church are ego and legalism. There seems to be less concern for the lost and more of a conviction to be argumentative. We want to argue and we want to condemn. We want what we want refusing to stop and consider any other option. We’ve boxed God in feeling proud about doing so.

The tie of unity has turned into a knot that strangles. Christ promised His church will prevail. That comforts me when I feel the church is slowly committing suicide.