Monday, June 22, 2015

Finding Christ in Today's Christianity

I think I've had it with Christianity. It's been a lovely ride, but I'm not really sure anyone knows where this thing is actually going. One church talks about looking like a "regular person," making connections with "the world" and being "an authentic Christian." This group thinks it's all about standing out: Who gets noticed? The guy dressed in camel hair and food shopping at the insectarium. This denomination abhors showiness and thinks modesty is most honoring to God; stiff wooden benches, Birkenstocks and acapella hymns predating electricity. This church preaches love; this one, judgment. And if you ask them, they're the only ones who are right. How does anyone "on the inside" make sense of all this, much less the folks with whom we are trying to connect?

Frankly -- and sadly, Christianity in some American churches today is a farce, and it goes from one bad extreme to the next. One church wants to cherry-pick which parts of the Bible they will obey, believe, or preach. Another wants to beat folks over the head with every square inch of the Bible. We -- meaning followers of Christ (at large) -- look as though either we don't even believe what God says, or we maniacally, rigidly, literally use every word from Genesis to Revelation to judge and enslave others.

The bottom line is that all of it is wrong if Christ is not in it. 1 John 4:8 tells us, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." God is love. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 tells us the things we do must be done out of love (in Christ) or they are worthless:
"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
You wanna know why there are so many divisions in churches, why they can't seem to agree, why their differences seem to cause problems with one another? Because people are leading the church -- not Christ! Go back and read 1 Corinthians 13 again, but this time substitute "Christ" for the word "love." Wow! If Christ is patient, if Christ is kind, if Christ does not envy, and so forth and so on, what does that mean for those of us who claim to be His followers? Seems to me we should be treating people -- and one another -- a little differently.

I read a meme the other day that said: "Perfection is hard in an imperfect world." Hello! Perfection is impossible in this imperfect world!  So, for that matter, is love -- at least love without the One who is love. John 15: says: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." Apart from God, we can do nothing. Especially love! Because He is love! Loving others is the evidence of a lover of God.

The face of true Christ-following, Christ-abiding, Christ-likeness is as diverse as the people who practice it. The Bible makes a clear point of that: Mary was chill, while her sister Martha was a bit OCD. Nicodemus was a rich teacher and public figure; Matthew was a cheat and a pariah. Peter had a short fuse while Zacchaeus was a tree-climbing little person. These Christians are couponers and homeschoolers; these Christians are financiers and educators. These Christians are hunters and outdoor enthusiasts; these Christians are vegans and lobbyists. God made us as variegated as the fish in the sea, but there is one thing we can't help but have in common: love. If you can't see love in a person, chances are you've not come face to face with a true Christian.

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