Okay -- time for a quick aside before I start commenting on how God's not only just radically freaking altering everything in my life from the ground up (and how I believe seminaries everywhere should stop worrying so much about theology and start teaching sociology) but opportunities for my life I though long dead and gone are just...blossoming everywhere (the first jaw dropping moment? September 30. Expect a big announcement soon).
So, anyway -- back when I was living in Athens, there was this little church called Compass that I was peripherally involved with for a few years (and that statement should elicit a few snickers form some readers). Compass has just started a new series called MYTHBUSTERS that is -- duh -- busting a few myths about faith, grace, and who this "Jesus" guy really is. Again, because just only so often I would open my big mouth and offer my .02, I on occassion would get asked for my expert opinion and insight regarding certain topics. Then, after we got finished talking about such topics (probably either The Lord of the Rings or Batman), we'd get into the spiritual stuff.
Case in point: I received an email late last week, which is quoted below for your benefit:
Miss you bro...especially with this week's topic If I Follow Jesus, I CAN'T GO DOWNTOWN
Working on talk - thought about you...would love a little "caffeinated" Sonny rant about now (maybe that's just my hearts cry for a good cup of joe)..Anyhow - the approach...
Downtown - synonomous - SINNERS
Therefore If I Follow Jesus, I can't be caught dead or alive down there -
alive...can't be up to ANY GOOD
Dead...wrong place to die right b4 I go see Jesus, right
If I Follow Jesus, there's a set of dos & don'ts/rules & regs/policy manual - dress, beverage choices, dating partners, music, got to go to CFA - the Christian fast food joint, etc.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OTHER legalISMS THAT HAVE SHAPED YOURS & MY WONDERFUL CHURCH UPBRINGINGS????
If I Follow Jesus, there's the Black hats & White hats - Do Gooders - Do Badders - Sinners & the Saints - Righteous & unjust - those going to Heaven and those going to HELL
If we're going to BUST THIS MYTH - we've got to change the way we think about:
GOD - Was God a Legalist?
Genesis - Sin not God caused Rules
CHURCH - Whose It For?
JESUS - Who Did He Hang Out With?
ME - Where's My Downtown and am I really willing to go there, hang out, build relationships, and become Salt and Light?
You like...love your thoughts/rants on any of the above (especially the> legalISMS...)
And then, for good times, my answer is quoted below:
Sorry for the delay in a reply. So, this AM, it's you, me, and some coffee.
Before we fly headlong into the busting of somelegalisms, let's just go with the the obvious arallel: lepers.
Yes, while there are some people who don't go downtown because they're afraid they'll catch some communicable disease from going into a bar or diner late at night or from the homeless person asking for food on the street corner, that's not what I'm referring to. Let's look at Jesus for a minute.
To me, the higher-ups in the church(Scribes/Pharisees) couldn't really condemn Jesus for healing, even for healing on the Sabbath. I mean, let's be honest -- even at their worst, these men were servants of God (and their own egos, but that's another story), and as such, acts that honor God were to be revered and celebrated...but on THEIR terms. The healings that Jesus performed and the people that He spoke to --- it was because He TOUCHED them that made them unclean. I'm pretty sure that every lame person who walked again and blind person who saw again caught a cold at one time after their healing. It wasn't that Jesus cured them forever of everything - it was that He met them at that time and in that place and went to where they were because the church at that time was unwilling - but not unable - to do so. He touched their lives by being who He was called to be. Not with a protest sign of "I heal thee and now here's a tract" nor did he make a spectacle of it - it was always those around Him who drew attention to His actions, because they were pure, motivated out of love and not judgment.
Take Zaccheus (sp? It IS 7 in the AM) - after Christ changed His life, nothing in the Bible indicates hestopped being a tax collector. In fact, it explicitly states that from that moment on, he was an HONEST tax collector, changed in his ways and still interactingwith the people he had interacted with before, but now with a purpose, a promise, and the charity of Christ in his heart.
NOTHING in the Bible tells me that after I am redeemed, that if I am to follow Jesus, I have to put myself in a tower or silo and only insulate myselfwith people who think/look/act like me. As a matter of fact (a) we call those people "cultists," and (b) biology -- and numerous redneck jokes -- warn us ofthe dangers of "inbreeding" with the same family. Look at Uga, the bulldog. Fear of bringing in another, UNCLEAN bloodline to the existing family structure for breeding purposes has resulted in his shortened lifespan, because -- according to the American Kennel Association, the legalistic dog (not God) pharisees -- a bloodline must be of a certain percentage PURE and untainted from other bulldogs in order for the lineage to remain unbroken.
Last time I looked around, the world was broken. We're all already there and "unclean," and no amount of separation from the world can clean us. The Bible kind of compels us to do the exact opposite and --wait; what was that commandment? -- go INTO the world.
When I die, I'd rather have died BEING the church than simply SAYING I was part of the church.
[Understand that all of this has been typed WITHOUT the aid of a cup of coffee. Think about how this would sound caffeinated :) ]
The legalisms -- the yoke the church tried to burden us with by giving us a set of not even rules but prescribed condemnations and judgments held against others simply based on our PERCEPTION of who they were and how they lived -- this yoke again might parallel to the one Jesus told us to shrug off and exchange for His yoke. And loving is SO much easier than hating. It doesn't drain you.
I love how Mother Theresa actually told everyone,"Stay where you are -- find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering, the lonely, right there where you are -- in your own homes and in your own families, in your work places and schools." Or, in a more simple way, Steve Camp (yeah - the CCM singer; how's THAT for an old -school shout-out) said "Don't tell them Jesus loves them until you're ready to love them too." Salt is a great seasoning agent, but a chef can kill the taste of something by oversalting food. Light is amazing, but it can be used to blind. The movie SAVED has a AMAZING scene where one character throws - literally throws - a Bible in anger at another character while creaming at her "I am FULL of Christ's love!" Then, the character who was hit by the Bible picks it up and hands it back to her, telling her"This...this is not a weapon."
...whew. Hope that all that text above helps in some way. I should be relatively free today, so if you need to email me back for some other points/clarification -- feel free to.