Tuesday, March 31, 2009

No More Gymnastics

"How do I reconcile that in my mind?" is a question I've been asking myself a lot recently. To systematically and regularly be forced to reevaluate many things in my life that I have long placed in the "untouchable" has been painful and lonely. How can anyone honestly enjoy that sort of thing? I think that much of my life has been spent trying to analyze my surroundings in a continual effort to come up with things that are true and will always be true. In a world and in a psyche that are ever-changing, I look for something to be my bedrock, my base of operations. I thought that I had already done this back in 2000-2003 when I first began to investigate the claims of Jesus. It was a long and arduous road that left me exhausted and confused more than it left me enlightened or content. But I did find what I was looking for. So the bedrock of my life became these things of church, Christianity, conservatism and occasionally Jesus. They were settled and untouchable.

Now I find myself in that old mode of asking lots of questions and getting torn in two directions between what I know to be true and the exposure of that truth to be something much more debatable. It feels like I'm on a waterbed and no matter what I do, I can't get things to settle down. I've lost my base of operations and it feels like life is taking me on a ride that I have no control over. I can't reconcile some things in my mind and its forcing me AWAY from many things that I have known and have held dear for many years now.

I can't reconcile my own zealousness for scriptures, and my claim to live by them, when my life does not look like the one shown in the scriptures. For claiming to be Jesus' follower, I find very little of my life that parallels the lives of the 12 or of the young church. If I were to list the traits of Jesus and his early followers I would come up with words like compassionate, selfless, giving and patient, or phrases like 'willing to suffer for others who don't deserve it' or 'thinks of others as more important than self'. But I don't live in a world like that, and I am certainly not like that. My life as a follower is defined by things like 'outwardly moral', 'opposed to this or that', or 'doctrinally sound'. There's nothing in there that suggest I am anything revolutionary or world-changing. My life does not bear witness to the limitless love of our creator and it certainly does not communicate that love in the way the master showed us. His love is shown by giving his life for those that he loved. And those that he loved included those that hated and murdered him. On the other hand I show his love by telling people about his love in story form and retreating to my comfort zones. How can I reconcile this in my mind? How can I conclude anything other than the fact that I am unwilling to live the radical life that Jesus calls me to? I am unwilling to jettison the comforts and general easy-living of my culture in order to show Christ's love by giving of myself for them. Now I know many will say that we have the opportunity to spread God's kingdom in our everyday lives, but I just don't get that from the scriptures. The book of Acts shows a group of people that lived for others and each other. Did they have jobs? Sure. Were they concerned with the lifestyle of their family? I don't see any evidence of that. Did they intentionally set up their lives where they never had to be confronted with the true plight of the poor and oppressed (white suburbs)? To the contrary! It looks as thought they took great joy in announcing Jesus' good news to the poor and marginalized. They sought out the poor and gleefully gave all they had in an effort to show the hurting and suffering people in the world that God cared about them in an amazing, counter-cultural way. But not me. I'll go to certain lengths to 'share the gospel', but any analysis of my time, thoughts, finances and plans shows a life that is 99% dictated by the culture around me and the demands that it puts on me, and 1% devoted to a Jesus that I've 'worked in'. I am being controlled by things that have nothing to do with Jesus.

When I go to church on Sunday, I can no longer reconcile what I see. How much of our effort is spent on Sunday mornings! Is it too much to say that 90% of church activity is related to the show we put on Sundays at 9:00 am and 11:00 am? It may be even higher than that! We put all this time into 'church' and we assume that this is how god's kingdom is advanced. Where did we get that idea?!? When I read of early Christ followers, I see people going out into the cities and pouring themselves into their communities. We, on the other hand, set up shop and invite others to come to us. Jesus came to the sick and the poor, but we ask the sick and the poor to come to us! We 'serve God' by opening a door for someone as they come into church on Sunday, or by mowing a church lawn. How is God being served? He is very clear that serving him done by serving the least of peoples! But we see serving God as serving other people in our 'club'. How backwards! I sometimes wonder if we would even know if Jesus came back. Because there is no doubt that he would be in the darkest places of our world, and us Christians have set up our lives to avoid such places all together! Who knows, he may already be here. What a tragedy it would be to find out that the King of Kings had returned and was in a place where we had never been! Doing things that we had never done!

The scriptures tell of the first Christians and how they gave all that they had away and took great joy in leaning on God for their every need. They left nothing for themselves because they knew that God had given everything for them. The writings tell us that the people loved them! The poor loved them! People had never seen love like this; so selfless, so unbelievably pure. This was the earthly representation of the love of God, and it was beautiful. But I don't see that in my church today. We are not loved by the people. We speak of the love of god in one breath, and then completely invalidate that love when it ends with words only. We tithe, give to causes and contribute to things, but do we ever really sacrifice? Do we even look at our homes, our cars, our stuff and even take a moment to think of what those resources could ahve done for the poor and the oppressed? Instead we talk of hard work and how we've 'earned' these things. I cannot find precident in the life of Jesus where he tells us to work hard and enjoy the rewards that come with it. This is an idea of our culture and not of the kingdom. But I live it every day.

We have become 'morality police', patrolling our country for anything that god would call sin, with the insane assumption that god wants us to rid our world of the sinful and the perverse by overcoming it with laws and restrictions. Where we stand on certain 'issues' has become the mark that allows us to identify each other as Christians. How can I reconcile this in my mind with the fact that the world around the time of Christ was every bit as perverse and evil as today? Jesus lived in the midst of some of the most savage barbarism known to man, and yet he never made it an issue. GETTING RID OF IT WAS NOT HOW THE KINGDOM WAS TO BE ADVANCED. It seemed as though he was more concerned with people understanding the kingdom of god, how they each had a place in it, and how it was the complete opposite of the system of life going on around them. We have been given this through the scriptures, and yet we go as far as DEFINE ourselves by our opposition to immorality. When I hear of a christian leader fighting for more morality in schools, the marketplace and society in general, I can't see where Jesus calls us to build his kingdom this way. How does this show the love of god? It doesn't. Jesus wants people to know that he is FOR them, and we show that by dying for people. The removal of sinful things from their lives comes AFTER they experience God's love. I can only surmise that the reason we don't do this is because it gives us the feeling of righteousness but without the need for sacrifice. We get to feel like we're on 'god's side' while spending the majority of our time seeking the progress, success and comfort of our society. I feel like I've had it all wrong for all these years. I've been unbelievable selfish, and I can reconcile it with what I know to be true.

Is it possible that we are hurting the cause of Christ? Is it possible that we feel like we've got it all figured out, but in reality we're taking the kingdom backwards with our version of the good news? That we're reproducing Christian who are terrible representatives of Christ? I can't reconcile it any longer. I can come up with a thousand excuses why I shouldn't live the radical life of a Christ Follower, and I can probably even find some vague biblical references to back up my assertion. But I can't read the gospels, the words of Jesus, the stories of the first Christians, and the letters of Paul, and say that my life looks anything like what I read. And so, I am blowing up these things and starting over. I can't think of anything worse than coming face to face with my maker and knowing that my life was more about me than about him and his kingdom. And sadly, that is exactly what I would feel if I met him today.

1 comment:

GigHarborUndressed said...

I love reading your stuff. I don't know if I struggle reading it because it's convicting or if I don't fully agree with you.
I hear what you're saying, but I don't see it so black and white. I believe our church, my physical body of believers, IS getting out and serving.
I read the Scriptures and I read about a group of insecure, ignorant misfits who got all of their joy from being loved by Christ. I see that in me...I'm a total screw up loved by Christ.
My validity isn't in how good I'm doing, but in how much I'm loved. As a result, I love because He loved me.
I hear you, I feel you, but I'm not sure I'm totally with you.