Tag Archives: spirituality

they like jesus

but not the church...

but not the church...

I’m disturbed.

Ask anyone on the street:  What do you think about God?  What do you think about Jesus?  What do you think about Spirituality?

Then ask them:  What do you think about Christians?  The Church?  Christianity?

I’ll bet we’d find that people – from all walks of life, religious and irreligious (with the exception of Bill Maher, perhaps) – have a positive reaction to God, immensely respect Jesus, even practice some sort of Spirituality.

But Christian changes everything.  Descriptives emerge:  bigotted, intolerant, homophobic, subculture, controlling, hate.

How in the world did we change the world to the point that the world likes Jesus (at least in their limited understanding, but like him nonetheless they do) but can’t stand His followers?  Certainly there are wrong perceptions, but the fact remains that perceptions shape people’s realities.  And as Christians, we’ve given more than enough fodder for people’s negative perceptions to become reality.

The question for us is not necessarily how to change their perceptions, but how to change how we shape those perceptions.

In other words, regardless of what narrow (and I mean this positively, not negatively) beliefs we have, how can we communicate love to our world.

More importantly, how can we communicate God’s love to God’s world.

Because as much as people may like Jesus…

…Jesus likes them more.

relationship rules

I’m in the middle of yet more books for our seminary classes and these have captured my attention: Cross and Covenant (Larry Shelton), and Unbounded Love by Clark Pinnock (click here for Unbounded Love for free). These have me thinking often and deeply about atonement, resurrection, law and relationship.

So, yesterday, while I was picking up some Papa Murphy’s pizza (the best chain-pizza in the USA, by the way), I got to thinking about the story of the Rich Young Ruler (or Man, whichever translation you’re using). Basically, this guy meets up with Jesus and asks the way to salvation. So Jesus, interestingly enough (especially to Protestants) asks first about the Law of Moses – the Big 10. The guy affirms that he’s kept all the rules since he was a child. So Jesus challenges him on what seems to be his possessions – he tells the guy to sell it all and give the money to the poor. Because he was so wealthy, this guy can’t do it – he can’t keep that commandment.

So, what got me thinking was that I’ve always looked at that story as the story of a selfish man, someone who couldn’t live without wealth. And the writer of the account seems to agree: this guy went away saddened because he had much wealth. Then Jesus says, “It’s hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom.” All signs seem to point to money being the problem.

And it certainly was part of the problem. But the real problem, I think, was relationship.

This wealthy guy thought he had a good grasp on knowing God; his relationship was based on loving and keeping laws, rules, obligations. Unfortunately laws, rules and obligations can’t love you back. After Jesus sufficiently understood that this guy was tip-top in the guy’s own estimation of relationship with God, Jesus challenges him on his relationship with others.

He had the super-spiritual side down pat.

Yet, that spirituality did not move him to love his neighbor.

This guy’s knowledge of God was proven deficient; the laws he kept did not lead him into a relationship with others. And if religiously keeping holy laws didn’t lead him to love his neighbor, how then could they lead him anywhere near a relationship with God?

Keeping the rules didn’t change him.

His deep beliefs about God didn’t change him.

What does this say about us? Many of us (including myself) are bent on following rules to the “T”, trying to convince God that we mean business. We’re serious about this God-thing. That’s what we’re trying to prove.

But the fact is this: we prove the extent to which we know God not by the morality we claim or the laws we keep, but by the relationships we have with others.