Monday, April 22, 2013

The Merely Annoying Gospel

We’re killing the gospel to get people to listen.

What do I mean?

Well, remember how following Christ is supposed to be offensive, divisive, renewing (as in overwriting the old, not just refreshing it), death-to-self inducing and all that other “hard stuff.”

The gospel is designed by God to offend every sense of human strength. It flies in the face of every thought that we can “make it on our own” or “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” or “DIY.” It stands in front of those notions and screams a very loud, “No! I’m sorry, but no. It just ain’t happening.”

Then it says, “But I’ll do it for you. All you have to do is follow.”

And every bone within us free-willed humans shouts, “No thanks, if I can’t do it myself, then I don’t want to do it. I don’t mind the gift, but the terms are too high. You can’t get me to admit that without you, I’m nothing.”

And like the rich young ruler, we often turn away.

But that’s the gospel. Or at least that’s the gospel God designed. The one we’re preaching nowadays has lost all that power. The sharp, dividing edge has been dulled. The offensiveness has been downgraded to mere annoyance.

The gospel is not  practical guidelines for a happy life.
The gospel is not a self-help book.
The gospel is not something you can take part of and ignore the rest.
The gospel is not something you can face without either admitting or ignoring the truth about your own spiritual state.
The gospel is not something that gives you the ability to feel “meh” about—it either offends you deeply and drives you away or it draws you to it deeply and offers you hope for change based on someone else’s ability.

Our modern gospel has been converted from something life-changing to something value-added.

Ironically, in doing so, in our efforts to make the “gospel” more appealing and less offensive to the average “unchurched Harry and Mary,” it is we ourselves, the Christian people who have become offensive. It is our “self-improved,” value-added, holier-than-thou-ness that offends our unbelieving friends and neighbors. We’ve stopped telling people that we’re just like them -- “such a worm as I” -- and we all need the offensive gospel that cuts us off at the kneecaps spiritually, and we’ve somehow started conveying the message that we’ve improved and that they can become more like us if they follow the same practical rules and spiritual guidelines.

We’ve taken the idea of an offensive gospel delivered by the “beautiful feet” of a loving and merciful and forgiving and thoroughly inoffensive people and turned it into an inoffensive (and thoroughly ineffective) gospel delivered by an offensive people. Seems to me we’re missing the point somewhere in all that.

I don’t mind people being offended by what I believe.

I do mind them being offended by me.

And I could be wrong, but isn’t that kind of the point of being salt and light in the world? I mean, isn't salt supposed to taste good?

Monday, April 15, 2013

[Link] Where Is the Kingdom?

We have become much too obvious about identifying what is “Christian” in the world. In fact, we have lost ground trying to gain ground. We have labeled and marketed a subculture and an agenda in the world. Christians have become much too visible. If you can say, “Here it is!” or “It’s over there!” then chances are you’ve got something other than the Kingdom of God. Not sure what it is but it isn’t that. Trying to identify and establish what is Christian in culture can easily work at cross-purposes with what God is already doing in the world.

The Kingdom of God is not something you can buy or sell or purchase a ticket to. You can’t market it or vote it in. You can’t put it in power because it is already in charge. You can’t call it out because God hasn’t called it out. There will come a time when every eye will see it, but this is not that time. To pray “Thy Kingdom come” as Jesus taught us to pray is not to bring it as if it weren’t here. He told us already that it is here. It means to pray that we might be agents of doing His will on earth “as it is in heaven.” -- John Fischer

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Playing Judas

"If we can’t embrace our own sin, how can we claim to know anything about our own forgiveness? If we can’t identify with Judas, how can we pretend to identify with Peter, or John, or Matthew, or any of the others who all betrayed Him and denied they knew Him by running away in His time of need? We identify with good old Peter because he got forgiven and reconciled to Christ, but Judas went out and hanged himself. Do we not understand that? Can we not embrace that in our own character? Are we all so bent on being good Christians that we cannot connect with being the bad guy?"
     -- From John Fischer, "Playing Judas" (The Catch)

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Equals/Unequals and Other Human Equations

It seems to me that people from opposite sides of religious, social, political, cultural, etc. issues should be able to disagree about things without being jackasses.

I'm sure that I'm as different from my progressive friends as I am from my conservative ones, from my devotedly religious friends as from my most un-religious ones. I'm sure I probably agree with many of my readers AND disagree with an equal number of my readers on subjects like abortion, gun control, gay marriage, whether Jesus is the son of God or just a fictional character, supporting the poor, affirmative action, euthanasia, stem cell research, etc.

Having different opinions doesn't make me a dick. Nor does it make you a dick.

It's how we treat each about the differences that becomes an issue.

I wish we could realize that just having differing opinions, even about vital, important, crucial, life-changing stuff, doesn't make ANYONE less a person. I'm still proud to have you as a friend no matter how you vote or what church you attend (or don't) -- just as long as you don't become a jerk about it.

I know as many jackass democrats as republicans as independents. I know as many jackass Christians as Wiccans as atheists as agnostics. I know as many jackass straights as gays, and pro-gay as pro-straight. And I've know just as many -- thankfully more -- wonderful human beings who are democrats, republicans, independents, gay, straight, pro-life, pro-choice, Christian, Wiccan, agnostic, atheist, NRA members, pro-gun control folks, etc.

The trouble is that so few of us can beyond our own worldviews to actually listen to anyone else who believes differently or see them as anything but an opponent.

I think for me it gets down to is what setting my filter is adjusted to. Am I walking around looking for the differences or looking for what we have in common? Am I searching for opponents or for fellow humans?