There’s been a lot going on lately – both in my heart and my head. You may remember that I’ve been struggling with accepting God’s grace again. It’s been hard to realize that God would still want me even after I threw away my faith and belief in Him. But I have a glimmer of hope that he does. I listened to a message today and at one point the pastor goes, “Just because they break my rules doesn’t mean they cease to be mine” (about his children). And the story of the prodigal son has been brought to my attention many times – as well as the story of Peter denying Christ. Putting it all together, I can’t deny it. I am still a child of God. A child whom God loves very much, no matter how much wrong doing there was on my part.
Realizing that has renewed my hunger and thirst for Him. But it’s a different hunger and thirst than I’ve ever felt before. I still have to battle my cynicism – it runs very deep now. But I long to make a difference. I long to be the kind of person Jesus was.
We just started reading Velvet Elvis in my small group (yes, I’m reading it again), and I was once again struck by the difference in how Christianity is versus how it should be.
For thousands of years followers of Jesus, like artists, have understood that we have to keep going, exploring what it means to live in harmony with each other. The Christian faith tradition is filled with change and growth and transformation. Jesus took part in this process by calling people to rethink faith and the Bible and hope and love and everything else, and by inviting them into the endless process of working out how to live as God created us to live.
The challenge for Christians then is to live with great passion and conviction, remaining open and flexible, aware that this life is not the last painting.
Times change. God doesn’t, but times do. We learn and grow, and the world around us shifts, and the Christian faith is alive only when it is listening, morphing, innovating, letting go of whatever has gotten in the way of Jesus and embracing whatever will help us be more and more the people God wants us to be.
Isn’t that a beautiful picture? It seems so unrealistic to those of us who have fallen prey to fundamentalism. But this is how it should be. There’s no legalism in this picture. There are no pharisees here. Only people who strive to be like Jesus. But unfortunately, too many people who proudly proclaim God’s name have screwed it up for everyone else.
The problem isn’t Jesus; the problem is what comes with Jesus.
For many people the word Christian conjures up all sorts of images that have nothing to do with who Jesus is and how he taught us to live. This must change.
How true is that? How often have you heard the c-word and just cringed? I know some of you have. Heck, even I have of late. What happens is that somebody out there gets this idea that the truth that they have is all there is. They forget that as times change ideas need to be revisited.
Here’s what often happens: Somebody comes along who has a fresh perspective on the Christian faith. People are inspired. A movement starts. Faith that was stale and dying is now alive. But then the pioneer of the movement – the painter – dies and the followers stop exploring. They mistakenly assume that their leaders words were the last ones on the subject, and they freeze their leader’s words. They forget that as that innovator was doing his or her part to move things along, that person was merely taking part in the discussion that will go on forever. And so in their commitment to what so-and-so said and did, they end up freezing the faith.
What gets lost is the truth that whoever painted that version was just like us, searching for God and experiencing God and trying to get a handle on what the Christian faith looks like.
I can say with certainty that I’ve experienced this. If you’ve ever gone to a baptist church in the South, I’m fairly certain that you’ve also experienced this. And it must change!
Living a life in Christ is about joy. It’s about helping people – all people. It’s about generosity, forgiveness, compassion, peace, and honesty. It’s about not being bitter. It’s about humility. It’s about love. It’s about living.
It’s time that those of us who use the name of Christ to describe ourselves started living up to the name.