Someone recently asked me why I am a Christian (given some of the terrible things said and done in the name of Christianity). For some time, my answer’s been the same: I am still a Christian because of Jesus. I suppose for me it’s very similar to the legend of how the great 20th-century theologian Karl Barth answered when asked about the most profound theological truth he ever learned. Barth said purportedly, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
This answer is simple but not simplistic; childlike but not childish. The idea behind it is that whatever we call Christianity or Christian ought to be conformed to the Person and ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the True North of the faith – we set our GPS system by him. If we discover something in our character, relationships, or ecclesiastical life that doesn’t conform to Christ, we are in error and we must course correct before we lose our way entirely.
I am a Christian because of Jesus.
My understanding of the Church’s life and my own Christian identity arise out of a passage of scripture – John 13.1-35. On the last night of his earthly life, Jesus wanted his disciples to remember him and his mission so that they could carry it forward after his death. He invited them to his Last Supper – the betrayer, the denier, and all who would abandon him soon – and broke bread with them. He took the job of the lowest servant in the house and though being their leader, washed their feet. He gave them a new commandment to “love one another.”
This passage shapes the vision statement I have for Christian life and ministry. Christians are called and equipped to be a TABLE & TOWEL community marked by:
+ Contagious Love: our love for God, neighbors, enemies, & one another marks the followers of Jesus.
+ Radical Hospitality: all are welcomed & received by the community as if they were Jesus.
+ Sacrificial Servanthood: to lead means to take up the towel & serve others like Jesus.
I’ll say more about this in subsequent blogs. I leave you to ponder this question:
What things in your life and/or your church need to be more conformed to Jesus?
Grace & Peace,
A week ago I decided to embark on a time of intentional spiritual focus. I wrote: “In light of recent world events, I feel compelled to make a conscious decision to be intentional. Beginning tomorrow, Monday, January 30, 2017, and continuing until Monday, February 27, 2017, I am beginning a #KingdomCome time to fast, pray, and write in these specific ways:
(1) Fasting from meat every day but Sundays. Meat is a luxury food for most. I choose to fast from meat in solidarity with the poor, the refugee, and/or the marginalized. Meat, in a way, symbolizes the “flesh” of humanity.
(2) Praying the Daily Office from the book of common prayer. This means two specific times of devotion, in the morning and the evening. I do this to pray for Kingdom solutions to worldly (and personal) problems of injustice and indifference as well as our need for Jesus’s kingdom to come.
(3) Writing only Scriptures on Facebook and Twitter posts, except for one personal blog per week or personal messages. Recounting the Scriptural story is centering. I’m choosing to blog once per week only, not commenting on posts and not retweeting or sharing others’ words. I want my words to be my own thoughts and tempered completely by fasting and prayer for this season.
Feel free to join me in this #KingdomCome time of intentional fasting, praying, and writing in these (or similar) ways. #KingdomCome
I’ve searched my soul during this first week and realized the only thing I can write with any conviction is a LAMENT. For those who don’t know, a lament is a type of prayer that is a passionate expression of grief and sorrow. You find a lot of laments in the Psalms (E.G. Psalms 3,4,5,12,44,60,74).
And in case you’re wondering, the answer is “NO” this lament doesn’t derive from bacon deprivation. The real source of my lament is because of the disunity in the Church created when sub-identities such as our nuclear family, political affiliation, or nationalism mean more to Christians than the Bible as a whole and the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ. Here is my lament:
Dear Jesus, I’m not really sure what you’re up to these days but I’d like to ask you to check in on the people who took your name as their last name with their baptismal vows. Okay, maybe you don’t need to check on all of the Christians, Jesus – but the American one’s need your attention. Somehow, somewhere along the line, it feels like we’ve forgotten who we are and what it means to be your disciples. I know that it was your idea to entrust the Good News to us and place the responsibility for the spread of your message to your Church, but a lot of days that looks like a bad idea. We’ve made a mess of things and it doesn’t appear to be getting better. It makes me angry and exhausted. I don’t want to be angry and exhausted all of the time with American Christianity, or more importantly, with people I know and love. It pains me deeply that people who aren’t Christians can look at us and say, as Gandhi said: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
To my non-Christian friends reading this blog: I am so sorry for the ways that we often portray Jesus and the ways the Church does unChristian things in Jesus’ name. Please turn your eyes to him and not to us, for we are imperfect vessels and we’re still learning. Jesus really is amazing and He loves you. I pray you come to know His love deeply.
Gandhi said: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Jesus, We’ve chased after the false gods and idols of this world so much that I’m not sure we even know what it means to be your disciples. I want to be full of your love. I want to be a peacemaker. I’m not naive. I know that love and peace are hard work. I know that situations are complex and answers aren’t simple. Maybe I should also confess to you my sin of wanting this to be easy and simple! Nobody likes to take up their cross and that includes me. I’m sorry. Jesus, increase my faith! Help me to love your Bride, the Church, just like you do. But Jesus, she’s sin-sick and you’re the Doctor. Physician, HEAL YOUR BRIDE!
Heal your Bride of the idolatrous and unbiblical ideas of nationalism; from looking to any politicians and crying “Save us!”; from looking to human laws and boundaries to define our identity.
Heal your Bride of the ignorance of trusting our ways, our understanding, and our resources alone when we should seek your wisdom and will through your word, prayer, and fasting as we seek to respond.
Heal your Bride of the incorrect assumption that the Democratic or Republican party have all the answers or that we need to belong to one or the other to follow you.
Heal your Bride of the illicit attitudes and actions that plague us – both our private, personal sins or our public, corporate sins.
Heal your Bride of the indifference that places our safety and security above justice and compassion; may we see every human being as created in your image and may we see your face, Jesus, in every person.
Heal your Bride of the irresponsibility that often follows indifference, when we see an injustice or look at our next door neighbor’s life and say, “Not my problem” or “Let somebody else do it.”
Heal your Bride of the inconsistency over only believing in truth when it aligns with worldview bias or political party affiliation, and seemingly caring only partially about life (before or after) birth – and only when it’s an American life.
Heal your Bride of the irritation of faux-persecution we feel when people say “Happy Holidays!” and not “Merry Christmas!” and all the other minor inconveniences of living in a diverse and free democratic society; and help us to remember those who are truly persecuted.
Heal your Bride of the indignation we feel when people disagree with us or things simply don’t go our way; keep us from thinking violent thoughts, speaking violent words, and participating in violent actions – be it on Facebook or political protests; help us remember your way is peace (shalom).
Jesus, we know your way is narrow and few find it. We know we’ll be persecuted because we bear your name. We know that we must lose our lives to find life. We know that we must take up the cross and follow you with no thought of the consequences. We know that “love of God” and “love of neighbor” are linked inextricably. Help us to be more like you, Jesus. Heal your Bride. And when I say Heal your Bride I mean to say, let that healing begin with me!
May your Kingdom come and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.