It’s important to think about why we are doing the things that we do. It is responsible to ask “where is this heading?” What happens if we wake up one morning and realize that the investment of our talents has not produced the results we desire? This can be important individually as well as corporately.
I believe that is where the American church is currently postured. Is the status quo of how we engage the world advancing the Kingdom of God? Are people around us better off for knowing us? Are people meeting Jesus through our choices and interaction?
At the risk of beating a worn out drum, consider the “Christian” response to the Duck Commander controversy as well as the Chick-fil-A uprising a while back. In the name of Jesus, church-goers rallied to support stances against homosexuality for the sake of “taking a stand” or “standing up for what is right” or “letting ‘them’ know where we stand.” OK, but why?
Why, in the context of your position as a Christian, is that important for Christianity? What does Christ benefit from that stand?
Jesus, first and foremost, desires relationship. He died for relationship. He wants a relationship with you and me and our neighbors and homosexuals and Muslims and whoever else you can imagine. Does the stand against stuff or even in support of people who have said they are against stuff move people any closer to relationship with Jesus?
We may be making these stands to justify our own beliefs more than we actually care about what Jesus cares about. Maybe we’re protecting God’s reputation. I’m certain that He’ll do just fine without our enforcement of Leviticus.
So the question for Christ followers in 2014 should be “how’s that working for you?” Good seed produces good fruit. Jesus fruit is people being served, healed, loved and in relationship. If there is no fruit in the positions, arguments, boycotts or other messages we are transmitting, isn’t it reasonable to consider that Christ may not be in the things that we claim are for Him?
Beyond just considering why we do the things that we do and whether or not they are productive, it’s fair to assess if we’re even right. I know that it is often incomprehensible to consider that we may have some margin for error in our interpretation of things, but let’s just consider the possibility. Within the framework of that thought, we have to allow for the possibility that our quotation of the Bible may not be a completely accurate interpretation of God’s intention. That means quoting the Bible or standing up for the Bible or invoking the Bible in some other way is not an automatic “win” for you.
We are at a cultural crossroads where the relevancy of the American church is challenged by a population that increasingly rejects the faith we exercise. One of the most obvious clashes of belief is in the area of sexuality, particularly homosexuality and same-sex marriages. Christians are screaming louder and louder but the chasm seems be getting wider and wider. Maybe that’s because Christians are screaming the wrong things at the wrong people.
We’re screaming at “them” that what “they” are doing is wrong based in our belief in the Bible. They either don’t believe the Bible or those parts of the Bible we quote. The standoff results in no agreement or relationship. Nobody gets closer to knowing Jesus. Here is the problem: God’s direction regarding marriage and sexuality isn’t for “them” that are unbelievers.
Read Leviticus 19, the most often quoted passage against homosexuality.
- Who was God talking to? Moses.
- Who did God say that for Moses to deliver His message to? The people of Israel.
- There were other people in the world other than the chosen nation through which God was revealing Himself, but He didn’t tell Moses to tell the world. He told Moses to tell the kingdom of God in its present state.
- He never told Israel to enforce these things outside of Israel. He gave them direction in the context of relationship.
Paul says the same thing in 1 Corinthians 5:12 as he admits that he has no business judging people outside of the church . . . outside of relationship. Outside of the Body, the particular choices of people who are not in a submitted relationship to Jesus don’t matter. Only His blood and what it does for us matters . . . the redemption of our choices follows the sanctification of our spirit through His salvation. We figure out the walking it out as a new creation. We don’t have to act right to receive the blood and the “old man” will never get it right, anyway.
Could that mean that yelling your interpretation of God’s “rules” at people who don’t believe in the same things you do is outside of God’s direction? Could that mean that it is contrary to His desire for relationship with “them?” Are you even right?
The things we say and what we choose to call things matters. The words we use sends messages which are both intended and unintended. The unintended messages draw reactions from others that may not match our sincere desire for relationship based in trust and respect. The result is rejection based in the differing interpretation of the same word.
Two of those words which are certain to draw people towards perceptions and conclusions which may not have anything to do with the way they were intended are “church” and “Christian.” Those words draw a reaction from practically anyone that hears them and the scope of reaction ranges from agreement to disdain. It’s not the responsibility of the user to correct the perceptions of the hearer, in fact, any effort to do so would likely only reinforce the hearer’s beliefs.
“Christian” has become synonymous with many attributes and even stereotypes that were not intended in the original label. The word is intended to communicate an identity rooted in Jesus. A Christ-follower who knows Him intimately and allows Him to live through them.
The only way to allow Him to live in us and through us is to submit to Him in us and through us. That means we die so that He would live in our thoughts, feelings, words, beliefs, actions and the very essence of our existence.
Jesus won’t co-habitate with our Republican, suburban, privileged, comfortable and selfish intermingling of us with Him. Those parts of us allowed to flourish become our best guess at imitating what He should look like in a consumeristic, selfish application at no expense to our agenda. That comes out as judgmental, hateful, intolerant and, most of all, arrogant.
- A Christ-follower chooses to submit to His nature
- That submission welcomes the Holy Spirit to dwell within us
- His dwelling results in the fruit of His presence within us to be on display outside of us
- Those characteristics are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control
- That’s what a Christian looks like when properly played out from the inside-out.
“Church” has not only become something it isn’t intended to be from the perspective of the world, but it also is a term mis-applied by those that practice their faith there. The buildings we meet in are not the “house of God” any more than they are the church. The house of God is contained in the people who have come to that building and the church woke up that morning and drove collectively to that place to meet.
In a building based definition of church it would mean that God is not engaged in the lives of the people when they leave that location. The result is a need to be entertained with a show that impacts me in such a way that it will carry me until the next time. If not, I’ll go down the road and find a better show.
- The church is a body of people intended to be carriers of the Kingdom
- The church is a mechanism for Heaven on earth in our day-to-day business
- The church is the Kingdom delivery system of salt and light where there is brokenness and despair
- The church is made up of ambassadors to represent Hope for those in need
That purpose requires relationship and compassion and is legitimate only to the extent that it reflects the nature of the King Himself. As the walking and talking church, how we walk and what we say represents all that some people will know of Jesus. If all they can see from us is our “stand” against one behavior or another, are we inviting them to church at all?
I came to know Jesus in my living room and I’m kind of glad that nobody from the church got in the way with all of their rules vs. my behaviors. It was just me and Him and my dog, Tank. I still had lots of messed up things in my life when I met Jesus and He didn’t abominate me for any of them. He loved me and I became the church, flaws and all, working them out one by one.
Either inadvertently or intentionally, we are all too often blending the Bible and the Constitution to create an American version of the Kingdom. It can’t and won’t work that way. Thomas Jefferson and the Apostle Paul had different motives and even beliefs. It’s appropriate to be a good citizen as long as that role is consistent with being a disciple. We can’t have integrity in either if we don’t know who we are in Him first.
The grace of Jesus Christ will attract people into the transformation found in the love of the Father. The whisper of the Holy Spirit will draw people into Jesus. We simply need to have integrity in the relationship we maintain with Them so that They will be afforded the opportunity to be on display through us. Our efforts to protect and stand up and clarify and defend are distractions from the intention of Jesus, which is to forgive and to commune. He will build His church and advance His kingdom and we can either participate or we can keep pointing out everyone else’s sin.