Deep in the backwoods of southern Appalachia, there is a small church of hicks and rednecks who were raised Christian, teach their kids to be Christian, and profess an illiterate and slanted form of a religion that is not theirs to slant. Intolerance. These people are radically locked in their own definition of the Gospel that really only applies if you are a white American protestant.
Divorced? They hate you.
Abortion? They hate you.
Gay? They hate you.
They, however, are not Jesus, and Jesus is who I am called to follow as a Christian. Before I lose the atheists, I want to specifically challenge you guys to get through this blog post. I don’t write very often for “Questions, Bar Answers.” In fact, this is my first time ever writing as a guest.
This post is not about the existence of God. I want to make that very clear right off the bat. If you want to debate with me privately, or even publically, over something deemed to be outside the realm of the Scripture, I would love to sit down and have a conversation on everything from the Borde Guth Vilenkin Theorem all the way to current affairs in this world, all of which attest to a Creator. So let me just reiterate one more time: This is not about if God exists or not. If you want to come and prove me wrong, I’ll even give you my Twitter handle so you can publicly challenge my ignorance: @jacob_dwyer.
There. Now we can begin.
There is a lot of miscommunication between the mouth of Jesus, two thousand years, and American Evangelical ears.
Mark 13:34 is pretty much a case in point.
Jesus: “So I give you a new command: Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways. Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others.”
Pretty hard to just shut out what is going on here. If Jesus really is the incarnate form of God, which is sort of the backbone of Christianity, the thought of God wrapping His existence in weak flesh to abolish the 613 commandments put forth in the Old Testament is kind of a big deal.
Jesus spends a lot of time breaking down rules and very little time whipping up ordinances of His own. Single digits. Jesus takes 613 cannons and chops the list down to so few, you could probably count them on your fingers. Coming into a world run by religion and continual self-reliance, Jesus sets the stage for a new structure. Finally, it is normal and alright to not be considered enough. In fact, that is the only way to step into salvation: to recognize that the deeds of an individual will never solely justify themselves when placed in judgment before God.
When dealing with such a high standard as perfection, the slightest mistake renders the outcome of a faultless existence impossible. Jesus never discriminated by sin; Jesus never ranked men based on earthly
merit. All extremes can be washed away. All people, from Jews to Gentiles, are welcome into the newly formed church. In Acts, Peter expels what is at most a three minute sermon, but fills every word with the truth that the Man he spent a few short years with had come to relieve a standard that had been oppressing the people of God for long.
The big picture is love. Love not as you love your job or your new car, but love as the God of the universe has loved you. Love as powerfully, as the foundations of creation were built upon it. Love wholeheartedly, as the limitless willingly took on limits. Love sweepingly, as the Creator drew no lines between enemy and child as He laid down His life.
The only people Jesus met belligerently in the New Testament were the Pharisees. Every call He uttered for repentance was met with the scoffs of men who deemed themselves too holy to even consider the thought. They divided their sin from that of others; they deemed their sin dismissible, permissible, and even nonexistent, and that is why they were treated as the unsaved. That is why they sought the murder of the Man who could save them.
A prequel to every story of salvation comes through a realization of failure.
There. It might be a little rough around the edges, and may never be read, but at least I put out my individual note that seems to be joining a melody of likeminded followers lately.
Before I close this post, however, there is one more issue to take care of: liberalism.
The one risk with the message of the love of God is the removal of His justice. To reduce God to one trait is to remove the very nature of God. He is loving, but He is also just. The problem with packing away Jesus in the lone adjective of “loving” is dangerous. There is abuse at both extremes. To preach the nature of God through one element of His character is just as dangerous as the absence of preaching because both lead to an inaccurate representation of God.
Through liberalism, Christianity begins to take on a mirror like approach.
“You encourage homosexual and premarital sex? We support gay marriage!”
“You’re cool with lust and adultery ripping apart half of all marriages? We’re cool with that!”
“You want to close Hell and open up universal salvation across the board? Works for us!”
Through the lens of liberalism, what you want is what you see, which is not the case in Christianity. Yes, Jesus loves you, and yes, Jesus accepts you for who you are, but once you accept Jesus, there are rules set forth to grow closer to the Man claiming to be God. Removing the doctrine from inside the Church is just as dangerous as shutting the doors on those who need Christ the most.
The path of a modern Christian is a tough one. Calls from both sides attempt to distill Jesus’s combination of love and justice into one element entirely. One Voice, however, still calls from two thousand years back, reminding those listening that they are on the right path.
You’re doing Christianity wrong if you let the momentary thought of superiority grab a foot hold in your life.
You’re doing Christianity wrong if you elevate yourself up to guide the world rather than lessen yourself to the guidance of God.
You’re doing Christianity wrong.
If you need to know anything beyond Christ to know anything about me, I am doing something wrong.