I’ll admit, I took the bait while reading someones blog. The blog in question belongs to Carey Neiuhowf. The bait was on a comment to what I felt was a great post on how to design a great sermon that can appeal to both groups of people who may be in a church.
Basically a guy went off on a tangent about how the church is not supposed to be a place for the world to come but a place for the saints or some such nonsense. He talked about how the church is supposed to go out and bla bla bla. It bugged me because it again spoke to what so many I know and have been around have done. Insulate themselves in the church from all outside influence, from culture and from moving and evolving in their faith. These same people justify this insulation as holy and look down on all those that would walk in the doors who don’t have the same type of relationship with God if any than they do. They have molded christianity and many time Jesus into their own image.
My comment was pretty simple. In the gospels Jesus reserves his rebukes and judgment for the religious leaders (read pastors) in today’s vernacular. I was taken to task that there are 66 books in the Bible. The post spoke of God’s anger at sinners and all sorts of things that to me are code words for loving the people in the church, daring people outside who are lost to come in. Typically the people that make these types of comments grab onto the read the whole bible, and use verses found in the old testament to justify their behavior, their separation from all things in the world, their looking down on certain people groups. They point to Levitcal law, as justification for their actions, comments, and beliefs. But they cherry pick what to follow and not follow. They use one portion of the law as justification for hatred and bigotry, and ignore other portions as covered under grace. Case in point Leviticus 11:7 clearly states that pork is not to be eaten, there are other food restrictions, there are also clothing restrictions, Leviticus 19:19, and hair grooming restrictions and all kinds of things that were not allowed when God first called the Children of Israel. All of these rules are conveniently ignored, or placed under the blood of Jesus and yet there are some that are used to exclude people from being in a place that is supposed to have the answers.
Here’s the thing. Jesus talked about one very important commandment. The one that he referenced the one thing that he said was important followed quickly by a second. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and then love your neighbor as yourself. These two things are what Jesus said were the most important things to do while he was walking the earth. When he left the earth he made a really clear statement. He said go and make disciples. He didn’t say go and make churches, he didn’t say go and make clicks, he didn’t say become exclusive, read the old testament, cherry pick a few laws from it that support your position and lock yourself away from the world. Go and make, he talked about us as being salt, and light. If I read his formula correctly I am supposed to show people love and grace, not a few people, just people. I am supposed to live a life that is pleasing to him by loving him and the people around me. I am supposed to work on my own salvation with fear and reverence, I can’t work on yours you can’t work on mine, our walks are our own.
I see Jesus in people all the time, and sometimes I don’t understand how I am seeing him in them. Knowing their background, knowing their past, or their present, knowing what I know of them, how can I still very clearly see Jesus in them, the answer is simple, so simple in fact that we discount it way to quickly. Grace. When Jesus came to fulfill the law he wasn’t saying that it had no meaning, nor was he saying that it was useless. The point of the law, at least from my perspective is to show humanity that without divine intervention there is absolutely no chance of humanity having the type of relationship with God we were designed for. Far from being a list of do’s and don’ts it’s a letter to humanity that says if you want to be reconciled to me on your own without help this is what it will take, this is what it means to be in perfect relationship with me, to follow every detail of this law to the letter. The thing is God knew we couldn’t and instituted the idea of sacrifice. God knew we would not be able to do it, that there would have to be something more. There would have to be a sacrifice, first in the form of animals, but ultimately in the form of Jesus. This is the point of it all. The idea that we use the old testament to make rules and regulations for who gets in is as silly as the idea that the principles taught in the Levitcal law are unimportant. We aren’t tethered to that law because of Grace, but reading it and studying it’s implications gives us a clearer understanding of just how valuable and awesome the Grace and Love of God really is.
As I dig deeper into Jesus words, and as I look around me I find myself in an interesting place. The place that I am as a Christian places me at odds with many of the people I love and respect. It puts me in a camp of people who have come to the realization that the church as a whole has forgotten that we are more than a social club, more than a downtrodden mass, more than all of these. We are to be doing life in such a way that people will see Jesus in our actions more than they hear him in our voices. We must change how we do church, how we relate scripture, how we treat people.
Emergent…I guess so and I’m okay with that, there are worse things to be, and I’m sure there are better things to be as well. What I want people to understand is that because I like loads of emergent concepts, I also like some orthodox ones, some evangelical ones and even some charismatic ones. I also dislike some emergent ones, some orthodox ones, some evangelical ones and some charismatic ones, doesn’t mean that I’m lost, it doesn’t mean that I am questioning the work of Jesus to save humanity. I have not abandoned the principles of Jesus death, resurrection and return. I still believe he is the answer to having an eternity worth living for. Stay tuned if you are so inclined as I explore the dark recesses of my theological mind and figure out how far down the emergent rabbit hole I’ll go.