I’m not sure when it happened, but something in me has snapped. It was a quiet, gradual snap, but a snap nonetheless. I can no longer identify myself with what is today called “Christianity.” I don’t know what the term means to you, but it certainly doesn’t describe me or what I hope to become.
Today’s version of the Christian religion typically includes a particular political leaning. It’s associated with a powerful Washington lobby.
The label Christian may be attached to some universities that have the name tucked away in their charter somewhere, but in reality they want nothing to do with the belief system to which the name used to refer.
The term “Christian” and another term, “church,” often refer to a particular people and a particular building where people meet once a week for religious activity.
And while there is nothing wrong with having a particular political leaning, attending a university with “Christian” in its name or charter, or going to religious services at a church building once a week, none of that has much of anything to do with the movement the ultimately came to be identified with Christianity.
I read an article recently about a controversial entertainer who identified himself as a Christian. I don’t know what he means by the term, but it seems to have no impact on his ability to drop F-Bombs or to father children out of wedlock.
That may have been when I snapped.
I have decided to abandon the “Christian religion” and take up with a band of brothers and sisters who have been around for over 2000 years. They are followers of a man who lived in First Century AD Palestine. He was a Hebrew, born and raised in poverty and worked as a carpenter.
At age thirty he began preaching and teaching about the Kingdom of God. He actually claimed to be the Messiah promised centuries before through the Hebrew prophets. This man supported his claims with obviously anointed teaching and many miraculous “signs”, such as healing lepers and paralytics, and even raising the dead.
This man eventually became a threat to the Hebrew leadership and was arrested. He was executed, according to Roman law, on a cross–a brutal, horrific death. Three days after his death his disciples–who had been in hiding since his arrest–began boldly declaring that their executed leader had risen from the dead. They said that he appeared to them for a period of forty days before ascending into the heavens.
And given the explosive growth of their movement after his execution, and given the lack of any evidence that they made the whole thing up or, not to mention, the lack of the actual discovery of the man’s body since then, I’m inclined to believe that their claims about this man being raised are true.
I’m also very attracted to this band of brothers and sisters because of how they lived. They were often admired, even feared, by their contemporaries who didn’t share their faith. They didn’t view their possessions as their own. They were quick to share whatever they had with anyone around them who was in need, even their enemies.
These “followers’ were passionate about caring for the poor, the widows and the outcasts of culture. Their leader taught them that every person on earth mattered to God and that they were to exhaust and empty themselves on behalf of others.
This band believed in forgiveness. They taught that their leader had died to forgive all their sins and the sins of anyone else–regardless of who he was or what he had done–and that they were in turn to forgive others. As a result, this group became very popular among the real “sinners” of their society: prostitutes, tax collectors (who were usually very corrupt) and even rough and tumble fishermen. People with whom I strongly identify.
The love this group showed for each other and for their leader is the thing that was most transformational. They were quick to set aside their freedoms, rights and privileges for the greater cause of their movement. And, they were ready to lay down their lives for each other and their leader, and they often did.
This group wasn’t political. It wasn’t wealthy, and what little wealth they had they quickly gave up. The group believed in living distinct lifestyles and in being identified not by their profound theology, not by their political prowess, not by their elaborate church buildings, but by their love.
And so I’m abandoning my contemporary “Christian” roots and joining arms with this band of men, women and children from all over the world and from all throughout history. I’m drawn by the simplicity of their faith, the generosity of their hearts, and the power of their love. More importantly, I’m drawn to the leader who started their movement.
Maybe you’ve heard of him . . . . .
His name is Jesus.