Sunday, August 19, 2012

Offending Christians

Jesus is not a bigot. I am not a bigot for following Jesus.

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.

-Jacob Dwyer

If you need to know anything beyond Christ to know anything about me, I am doing something wrong.

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  1. I'm not sure I agree with the way you've painted liberalism. It seems you see us a group of short sighted optimists, who look to any opportunity to go against the words of the Bible. I prefer to define it through the words of JFK:If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal

    1. You are correct, to an extent. The way you are thinking of liberalism is in a completely different sense when compared to the liberalism I mention in the above post.

      The way you view liberalism is the way most people would view it, through the general paradigm of the American political landscape. When you see liberalism, you probably tie it into the color blue and the Democrat party in America. When I refer to liberalism, I refer to something deeper than the tendency to cheer for a senator or congressman with a "(D)" printed next to their name on CSPAN or a habit of counting up blue states whenever a map of the American political landscape is shown.

      If politics is your cup of tea, then run with it, but I personally abstain from the hostile and venomous environment created by politics. Both sides, both conservative and liberal, cut and paste the Bible as they see fit to get voters. Both parties fall short in living the way we are called to live through a life with God.

      And, in my opinion, that all stems from a mix up in the order of operations. The Bible, as your probably know through the narrow world of Bible beaters, has a lot of rules and is very, very strict when it comes to what is acceptable and what is not. On the flip side of that, you also probably know that we are called to love and accept the world the way God called us to when He loved and accepted us.

      The fallacy is often if you live up to the rules and the regulations of the Bible beaters, God will love you. If that was the case, NO ONE, not even the self-righteous churches in the south, would be deemed acceptable of God's love.

      The reality is that if you love God, if you give your life to Jesus, and if you live every moment calling out to the Holy Spirit for the guidance God promised, then the standards just happen.

      That is because when you give yourself to God, you die to your flesh. Your wills do not, nor will they ever, align with the will of God, and when you embrace God, you have to give up your will and live the way He called us to. Do you think Peter, Paul, or John ever sat around worrying that God would stop loving them due to their mistakes and short coming the first moment they mess up? Of course not.

      They understood that mankind was broken and evil, and that the only way to be free of the bondage of man is to give up on the hope that man can be good through man's actions.

      Liberalism teaches the exact opposite. It teaches that through the actions of man, mankind can move forward. Through the eternal and endless refinement of man through culture and education, man will get closer and closer to perfect.

      This is simply not true.

      Liberalism, as I mention above, is not a narrow label slapped onto a political group so I could indirectly take a jab at your favorite senator.

      Liberalism, as I mention above, is about the school of thought that allows man to redefine what is good and right by placing man at the center of the universe rather than placing the God of the universe at the center of man's world.

      Liberalism is the world based on man, and the world based on man will always fall short.

      It will always fall.

      -Jacob Dwyer