‘No, really, I’m serious’, said Jesus.

I’m not sure whether Evangelical Christianity is the most prominent form of visible Christianity at the moment, or if it’s just that I have been drawn to the mediums by which it’s most vocally promoted (the internets, basically) but it’s certainly true that when I first became a serious spiritual seeker, this particular flavour of christianity was the one most readily available to me . It’s also, ironically (is that ironic? in my head it is…) the form that I have an instinctive distrust of (because of areas such as biblical literalism, salvation by faith not works, the sinners prayer). I  found that I had to dig deeper, to really find out about other forms of expression that didn’t seem to wear a flashing sign signalling ‘Christianity; you’re doing it wrong’.

I was convinced that my views of religion, and those held about Christianity by my extended family were just not valid. Most of what I came up against at first was precisely what I have a hard time stomaching about religion, so I had to persevere. I wanted to persevere. Read hidden meaning in to that, if you like…

Here’s what I found. Faith not works is too easy, and the essense of Christianity is fairly confronting.

Jesus was hard-core. Really, he was.  Don’t bury your father, come with me. You want to follow me?  You’re going to be homeless, baby. Give up everything that you have, and be my disciple. Give it all to the poor. No, not what’s left over after you buy an ipad 3 (to use a particularly relevent anaology) but all of it.

Crap.  That makes me really uncomfortable.

Or, say a prayer and be saved.  That’s it. If you really mean it, then salvation is yours.

Oooh, I MUCH prefer that option. Option B! Option B!

But from what I can tell about Jesus, that’s not what he wanted. It’s not what he said, and it’s certainly not how he acted. He made people uncomfortable and he rocked the boat.

But, it’s no wonder that people prefer the second option. Much more user friendly. Much more, whats the word….useless?

I’m reading ‘The Hole in Our Gospel’ by Richard Stearns, and it’s making me both uncomfortable and deeply contemplative. And that’s just me, a wishy-washy wannabee Christian. I can’t imagine the impact that this book must have on those committed and passionate people who truly believe that the Gospel is the word of God. Surely only a complete overhaul of our current way of living is the answer?

On page 59 of his book, Richard Stearns paraphrases and modernises Matthew 25;

“For I was hungry, while you had all you needed. I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water. I was a stranger, but you wanted me deported. I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes. I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviours that led to my sickness. I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I deserved”

Like I said; uncomfortable.

I really need to take a good, hard look at myself.

 

19 thoughts on “‘No, really, I’m serious’, said Jesus.

  1. *delurking*

    “Or, say a prayer and be saved. That’s it. If you really mean it, then salvation is yours.”

    Well….that’s how Evangelical Christianity sounds on the outside, but that’s not how it really is. That does sound easy, doesn’t it? That whole once saved, always saved thing isn’t all it sounds like though. They have a little equation that looks a bit like this:

    Grace + Faith + Nothing = Salvation

    That, however, is not how it’s practiced. It’s really more like once saved, always saved, if saved. Once they’ve hooked you in emotionally with the grace bit they start piling on. You must believe in the virgin birth, in the trinity, in creation in 6 literal days. You must actually follow the teachings of Christ(according to them), and you must not live an active lifestyle of sin (homosexuality, adultery, drug addiction and on and on). Because if you make a misstep on any of these points you must not have really been saved at all.

    • If you’ll forgive me for saying so, I can believe that an active adulterous homosexual drug addict was never saved to begin with.

      😉

      • Haha! I can’t say I’d disagree with that. 🙂

        I was, however, making the point that the grace that evangelicals preach isn’t quite as free and easy as they make it sound. Eventually one begins to feel so guilty about any little thing(idolatry amounts to putting anything before God/church) that you check your ticket often to see which direction you’re heading. You might just be catching that long, black, train. Yikes!

  2. I have come to believe that extremes can be dangerous, because they take one truth and focus on it to the exclusion of any other truth. I was raised in an extremely legalistic environment. By the time I was a teenager I was consumed with guilt, because I was never able to live up to the perfection I was taught was necessary. At one point I seriously considered suicide. Later on I came to understand the healing power of grace. At the same time, I see others transforming it into what Dietrich Bonhoeffer refers to as “cheap grace,” a grace that requires nothing of me. Actually, the problem with both legalism and cheap grace is the same–they both focus on “me,” as if it were all about me. By the way, I absolutely agree about the “Sinner’s Prayer.” It is one more example of cheap grace. The liberating element of grace is that it frees me to serve God and others without doing so for ulterior motives (well, sometimes anyway–that’s why it’s grace). A mature view of Christianity allows me to recognize and deal with my human failings without minimizing them. It reminds me that I am far from perfect, but it never allows me to seek anything less. At the same time, I recognize that my status with God doesn’t depend on my consistent performance, but on His love, a love He calls me to share with others who are just as weak and struggling as I am.

      • Yes, while I remain agnostic at this point, the idea of grace is appealing. It’s lovely to think that a God’s love for us would inspire us to love him in return. Loving him in return would look a lot like loving our neighbors as ourselves, turning the other cheek, and giving to the least of these.

  3. After reading your essay, I’m convinced that you don’t need to take a good hard look at yourself.

    There is a category that goes beyond “cheap.” The prosperity gospel, wherein the person willing to believe that she is the soul purpose of God’s creation of the universe is richly rewarded for having been chosen to believe.

  4. I’ve not read any of the above comments because I started to read one from Donald and decided to just skip any heated debates. I also don’t know much about you so I have no wisdom. I really do like your post and I love that you understand something many seasoned “christians” don’t get – true faith isn’t comfortable. It’s the whole “dying to self” thing that if we really strive to do it, we struggle. It’s so hard. I think you’ve got one thing right – Jesus was hard core and what he asks of us is foreign to everything about our natural inclinations. Just know this one thing, God really desires you. ❤

  5. I’ve been a Christian for ages, grew up in the church blah blah blah.

    It wasn’t until I read Matthew for myself in my mid 20’s that I actually realised how radical and rebellious Jesus was. It was a bit of a shock. I think the church today, by in large, is so steeped in consumerism and individualism, that it doesn’t even realise it and can’t see how far away it actually is from the teachings of Jesus.

    As God says in Revelation 3 He’d rather we were hot or cold not lukewarm.

  6. Although I know some consider Agnosticism to be lukewarm; not committing to one side or the other. I can kind of see the point, although I don’t agree.
    As for the rebellious Jesus- that’s why I find it hard to understand right-wing christians.

    • I totally don’t see the lukewarm thing that way! (sorry if I gave that impression) the actually verse is directed at a church! Which is a challenge for me!

  7. Jesus Christ was a radical, but the problem is, context is thrown out of the window and what we find convenient is brought in.

    The problem is Christianity has made itself quite branched and both sides are dug in extreme. While its true that Christ called the man to leave his father, that call was not an objective principle, that was the cost of a literal discipleship. Compare it to the thousands of people who followed him and he healed them and asked nothing from them to do. There is a difference.

    Matt 25 is spot on what the message actually conveys, if you do not love your fellow beings, how in the world do you love God.

  8. I became a follower of Christ and joined an evangelical church in the UK. I was able to explore the faith/works/grace question, but was surprised as a young christian how it didn’t seem to be working out in the congregation. But later i realised the power in ‘don’t judge others’. I see a lot of discussions where christians seem to be assessing whether others are really ‘saved’ – and I now realise that they’ve just got it wrong. The only one who sees the heart is God. But back to the faith / works / grace question – it is immensely powerful and extremely rational. I’ve tried to explain it in a short book I wrote about why christianity is actually good news (a message we seem to have lost!) http://philhemsley.wordpress.com/first-chapter-of-the-leap/ On my personal journey i’m now at probably the most extreme un-evangelical end, which I don’t blindly accept dogma or other peoples interpretation of God’s will, but focus on only Jesus – as essentially expressed in the Lords prayer.

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