The Christian life, if done right, is very difficult. It is.
It is very difficult to carry out the demands of Jesus.
Jesus is a very demanding kind of guy.
If you look at his words in the scripture, some of the things he says demands a lot of us.
But, as Christians, we “interpret” his demands, “put them in a modern perspective” and disobey them, because after all, in our Western thought, we think Jesus wouldn’t put such demands on us.
Jesus demands it all.
But in our modern version of Christianity, we don’t see it as a call to give it all, to pursue our relationship with God.
For some reason, Jesus can be merely restricted to Sunday mornings and maybe Wednesday nights, just as long as we make a Facebook status, we keep our religion status, wear the necklace and don’t drink in public.
Believe it or not, we section off a part of our lives and we give that section to Jesus, but the other sections?
That’s for ourselves.
And every few years, we take a mission trip, because that’s a way to give back and give to those who don’t experience God.
We see how thirsty they are for a glimpse of God, and we report back to those who have supported us financially.
Instead of living out the value of a Christian life, we cling to theology and short catchphrases on what it means to be a Christian.
We witness by praying over our meal and then proceed to talk about things that do not need to be talked about.
We wear our Christian t-shirts, listen to Christian music and attend Christian concerts ,where we have a true experience of emotion, and thus we buy a lot of Christian-themed shirts.
We go on retreats and return on spiritual highs.
We buy devotional books that do nothing but gather dust.
We support Republican candidates because they’re fighting to save the family and to protect us from the evil that is homosexuality.
We abhor everything that doesn’t fit in our “Christian box” because of course it’s evil, and of course we’re supposed to flee from it, never mind that the actual person is a person.
When hard times come along, we cite verses that people normally cite and we say that God’s testing us, or we’re just going through a trial and we remind ourselves that if we just have faith, we’ll get through it all.
Seems like we’re putting it all in a perspective that just makes us feel good.
It just makes us feel better about things.
Gives us warm and fuzzy feelings without breaking a sweat and putting on a fur coat. We orient everything so that we don't have to change our way of life. And we pursue what we want because it's our God-given desires. We distance ourselves from the reality of Christ's call because that's comfortable. In reality, the Christian walk, to me, looks something more like this sounds.
I don't know.
The reality is, that Jesus challenges us. But we dilute that challenge. As I've grown older and I've been given the desire to get into the word, the more and more I realize how much I'm not giving it all up to follow Jesus. I quit Christianity. I'm no longer a Christian. I just wanna follow Jesus. I don't want the demands and the politics of being a Christian anymore. I don't wanna follow the church. The church could be great, but it's so uninspiring. There's no longer any room for imagination, but there's plenty of room for theology and doctrine. There's not enough space to be limitless and to believe in a limitless God, but there's plenty of time to chain God down into a series of statements and responsive readings.
The reason that we chain God down and we no longer imagine the possibilities, is because we like to think that we can control God and we can control what the statements of Jesus say. We can control the message of dilution. But when we encounter something real, something mystical that defies theological and doctrinal beliefs, we realize that we can't answer things with our prepared cliche statements. It's not enough. I encountered a mystical, magical, imaginary God in a series of deep pain. The cliche statements Christians make, "It's all in God's plan" "Just keep on" "Depend on God" "God never shuts a door without opening a window", all those statements just add acid to the aching wound. Intentions are certainly good, I do believe, but they ignore the actual reality. What if the hurt is pointless? What if there is no plan? What if there is no reason? Because in those moments of hurt and pain, God doesn't seem to answer and he doesn't seem altogether that near to me. I feel abandoned. What if there is no plan? What if this is just another season of hurt? Another thing to get through?
We can have all the faith in the world, but if this doesn't permeate our very being, we've got nothing. If we aren't really growing and if we aren't really allowing the gospel to transform our lives, then we've got nothing. When the hurt comes in, we're bombarded by cliche statements and then feel guilty when we doubt God in the midst of it all. Kutless' song, at first seems great, it's an empowering song, to remind you to just get through whatever circumstance you're facing, and it'll all work out. But what the song ignores is that faith is a dime-a-dozen. Everyone has faith. Everyone. Even those who don't believe in anything. Everyone puts their faith and trust in something. Just because I put my faith and trust in this chair, doesn't mean that I can move the mountains. This song tries to put this idea in our head that if we just have enough faith, we can do impossible things. I don't think that's true. Because we're leaving out a huge component of the reality of our lives. God. We've left God out of the equation entirely. See, it's not our faith that moves the mountains, our faith doesn't really heal disease, broken hearts don't get healed by faith -- God does it all. God is the one that can move mountains. God is the healer. God is the restorer of broken hearts and lives. If we believe in God, we know it is God that is working out all things, and it's not because of our faith. God is still God even when I don't believe in him or don't feel him. Just because I don't believe in him, doesn't mean that he ceases to be God.
Gandhi says: "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." I really like that statement. He also says: "Ask the poor. They will tell you who the Christians are." Those two statements are a harsh contrast to each other. Christians are unlike Christ, but the real Christians are known by the poor. We're told it's hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. And if we want to follow Jesus, we have to give up everything. But, in our comfortable perspectives of God, we say that having money and being rich is not a bad thing, as long as we don't get wrapped up in our monetary status. In addition, Jesus doesn't want us to give up our stuff, he just wants us to not be attached to it. But we are attached to our stuff and we are wrapped up in our monetary status. We worry about money. We lock our doors and our cars, because we don't want people to steal our stuff. Somehow, I don't think our western perspective is enough.
It's strange, we worship a homeless guy on Sunday, but then when we encounter homeless people, we treat them with less than cordial manners. We ignore them, but we worship a homeless guy. Jesus was homeless. He had to take in the hospitality of his friends and families, and he instructed his followers to travel around in pairs at least, and depend on the gifts and bounties of God. We say that people can have this whole world, but give us Jesus, yet we're afraid to really rely on God and refuse to risk it all and allow things to be open-ended.
So I quit Christianity. I quit it because we don't take Jesus at his word. We doctrinalize and theologize what Jesus says instead of taking him literally and falling in love with our neighbors. We close the door to new ways of doing things because it's more comfortable to remain complacent. We would rather remain where we are than be radically changed by the God of butterflies and sunsets and bubbles. The greatest thing that Jesus said, for us to do, is to love God, love people as ourselves, and the rest doesn't really matter. It doesn't really matter. When we love God, we are driven to love his people, and we learn that God's love isn't dependent upon what we do or say or believe. God loves us anyways. Thus, if we are to become like Christ, then we learn that our love for others has to be the same way. And, in acting with love, we embody love and we live it out, because that's the only sure way to demonstrate God's love. If we haven't love, the bible says, we have nothing. And I believe that Jesus would agree with that. We can go on all the mission trips in the world, we can donate all the money we want, but if we don't have a deep and passionate love for those we're serving, it amounts to nothing. Mission trips are great, and I'm not saying they're evil...but I often wonder if they really make a difference unless you repeatedly go back. A lot of people go to a lot of different places on a mission trip. And that's great, but unless it becomes personal and you become personally involved with these people and you begin a relationship with them, there's no real potential for personal change and growth.
I think that there's more to being desperate to see people come to know God than screaming at them from a corner, thumping your bible in their face, "convicting" them with scripture, putting a statement on a facebook page or wall. I think there's more than simply dozing during church, to being a Christian. Jesus calls us to community, and he calls us into a deep love for people. And if we love people deeply enough, issues are suddenly personal. Lives are suddenly significant.
I think what Jesus calls us to, and what is most challenging for us, is to make each life significant. See, God makes a big deal out of all of us, that's why we have hopscotch, and puppies and playtime. We have enjoyment of what we've been given. And as a result, we like to use our enjoyment of whatever we're doing, and we like to hoard it up for ourselves. But it's supposed to be a shared thing. Joy is contagious, and once we decide to focus on the joy that our lives can hold, we can give it away. But we don't, because each stranger is not a significant person. Or, we're uncomfortable.
Let me be clear, Jesus is not here to make our lives comfortable. He makes it better, but that doesn't mean it's comfortable. There are still moments where you feel like suicide. There are still moments of sincere anger. And there's moments of torture and pain. The Christian life is difficult because it demands more of us than we think. It demands that we take Jesus personally and we take the act of living it out as the most important task we do everyday. So I quit the Christian way of life so that I can follow Jesus. I quit so that I can learn to love my neighbors more than myself, because that's just what Jesus would do. I quit so that I can take the commandments personally and not be wooed by the comfortable western Christian theology. I quit so that I can learn to take it all personally and intentionally.
I'd like to close with this story. Shane Clariborne actually tells this in his book, The Irresistible Revolution, but I'll just summarize it here. Shane went to Calcutta, and he was hanging out with Mother Teresa, and he noticed her feet. They were disfigured and deformed, and he asked about why her feet were in such horrible shape. And one of the people working with her said that she didn't want anyone to have to endure the most terrible shoes possible, and so she would look through the boxes of donated shoes and pick out the worst pair and wear them. Years of doing that, disfigured her feet. That's the cost of loving her neighbor as herself, disfiguring her feet. I think she took the words of Christ personally more than I can right now. All because she fell in love with her neighbors.
What do you think of these thoughts on Christianity? Do you agree or disagree? Have you thought of quitting Christianity?