I’ve read a lot recently from other bloggers, “christian” writers and magazines about Christianity and what it’s about.
The overwhelming feeling I get is that many people are diluting Jesus’s message to make it “relevant” or “acceptable” to young people, old people, “hip” people, or any other group of people they can think of.
Now I’ve been in churches where in forty years nobody had taught on the Second Coming. I can deal with that, although I believe we need to get back to the sense of urgency the original 12 had.
But aspects of the core of the message Jesus taught are being omitted.
Parts essential to being able to ask for forgiveness of sin – such as the definition of sin – have been eroded to the point that if they were the foundations of a physical building any structural engineer would condemn the place.
But not only do we (and yes, I include myself in this as an offender) dilute the message, we try to make out that under the circumstances where we were it was the “right” thing to do.
I have a good friend from childhood with whom I differ on several things, including the nature of sin with regard to sexuality. I have spent, I realised when I started writing this blog, 30 years or more avoiding certain topics from my Faith to avoid making people uncomfortable. Greed, sexuality, idolatry, self-righteousness and more get swept out of the way as an embarrassing faux-pas on the part of the church now we are in a more “enlightened” time.
But God’s wisdom is foolishness to men, and God laughs at man’s wisdom. While we swallow camels and strain gnats in our conversations and outreach we can never make true disciples. We may make socially acceptable ones. Disciples who don’t make waves, whose primary drive is social conscience and equal rights. Disciples whose version of christianity bears a terrifying similarity to marxism in its pure form (as opposed to Soviet, Chinese and Korean interpretations).
Jesus did say we were all equal. All of us are equal in that we have Sinned and fallen short of God’s Glory.
We have forgotten that we, the Church, are the ones through whom the World will see True Righteousness.
That unnerves me. I don’t feel righteous. I certainly don’t feel like an example to be held up as a way to do things. Possibly as a cautionary tale…
But Christ in me allows me to be an example.
The problem is that in our haste to make converts we forget that Jesus gave us a Commission to make Disciples of all Nations. So we tend to present a socially acceptable version of the christian faith, playing down the concepts of sin, Hell and Judgement – all of which are warned of in Revelation, just so anyone has any doubt can remember that. Jesus will return to Judge the living and the dead.
Makes a sudden difference to the urgency of the message, doesn’t it?
I knew a biker a few years ago who had a great badge. It said “If you meet me today, and forget me tomorrow, who cares? But if you meet Christ today and forget Him tomorrow, you will.”
The message had punch and was simple. It invited people to ask him questions about his Faith, and if you are called to talk to bikers, you really need boldness and, often but not always, an invitation. Questions are an invitation.
I’ve never seen a placard waving, condemning and screaming person protesting on the news or in the street being approached by someone broken considering an abortion, or hurting because their entire earthly family has rejected them because of their orientation, or shattered because of physical, psychological or sexual abuse drawn to one of those people. And I’m certain Jesus would ignore these people too. They don’t offer Love. They push people away.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in calling sin a sin. It’s essential to Salvation and Relationship. If you were to try to be my friend and every time you saw me you kicked me in the crotch, I’m not sure I’d be convinced of the sincerity of your friendship if I’d told you not to. The relationship would not be sincere, and your continued assault would be proof that you didn’t want it anyway.
So why do we treat Jesus any differently?
Sin is sin. Yes, Jesus forgives us. He paid the price at Calvary. There’s an excellent line in a Don Francisco song called “It Ain’t no Sin to Get The Blues” from the late 1990s that says “Jesus paid your lifetime membership, But you still gotta pay some dues”. Take what you like from that, but what I found in it was the realisation that – Like St Paul – I often find myself doing what my Spirit tells me, and I know to be opposed to what Jesus would do. I am absolutely certain that Jesus would not have responded the way I do to my neighbour shouting at my dogs. I battle daily to find just one thing that the surgeon whose mis-management of my wife post-operatively almost resulted in her death so I can find a place in my heart to forgive him. So far the list is not long, but every day it gets easier. He was a gentleman who never made her feel judged, ridiculed or inferior. Yes he made a mistake in the after-care, but he actually did care about her recovery – he just got blinkered and didn’t put the collection of symptoms together.
But I’m not trying to forgive him for his sake. I’m trying for mine.
I don’t subscribe to a Jesus “Lite” version of Christianity. Cutting bits out to make it easier to accept results in death. Jesus was hard with people. Read the Gospels and you can see it. But the way He was hard drew people to Him.
He didn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery, but He told her to stop sinning. He didn’t condemn the Samaritan woman living with her boyfriend, but He told her to stop sinning. He healed the cripple, but warned him to stop sinning so nothing worse would happen to him! (see John 5:14)
The people flocked to Jesus. Zaccheus, a tax collector who was the most despised man in his town, climbed a tree, allowed Jesus to invite Himself to dinner and repented, giving back more than he had cheated people out of – and Jesus didn’t tell him that was a condition of Salvation. Infact, Jesus declared it to be a sign of Salvation. This fits with the idea of signs and wonders following the believer. First believe – wholly and completely – then act.
And enough of Jesus Lite.
Don’t trim the uncomfortable bits to trick people into the Kingdom.
It won’t be the Kingdom of Heaven they end up in.
If the path is broad and easy, and there’s no discomfort involved, there’s a good chance it’s the wrong path. Look for a narrow way, a steep climb, and hardship along it.
If you don’t run into opposition from the devil and his cohorts, you’re probably moving in their direction.
So continuing the “Lent” theme, if you want something else to give up: give up cutting corners to fit in. Give up making Jesus in your image. Be Transformed by the renewing of your mind.
I’m trying. I’ll be honest, since I started my life has been so much harder it’s not funny. I lost a business, my wife and my mother are both seriously ill – both potentially terminally should treatment fail, I lost a job as well, and I find myself unemployable in my location (South Africa). There’s a temptation to quit.
Every day I find a reason not to. Every day it’s the same one.
Jesus didn’t quit on me. He’ll give me strength for today. I’ll deal with tomorrow when it arrives.
No more Jesus “Lite”. It doesn’t taste right.