Many people might assume I hate the church. With a book titled “The Church Must Die”, I can understand how they would arrive at that assumption.
But they are wrong.
I actually love the true church of Jesus Christ. The problem comes in because what most people would define as “the church” today is not really what it should be. We have lost the correct definition of church. What I hate, what I think must die, is the modern incarnation of church. Actually, it’s not such a modern incarnation. It is one almost 2000 years in the making.
If you define church as an institution, then yeah, I hate that. If you define church as a building, I hate that as well. If you define church as something you go to on Sunday morning or something that dominates your life with religious rules, then I most certainly hate that.
Many people might assume I hate Christianity. With my blog called “Quitting Christianity,” I can understand how they would also arrive at that assumption.
But they would again be wrong.
It’s just that “Christianity” and all its derivatives have become loaded words. They are full of so much negative baggage. Say the word Christian, and people’s minds are instantly made up.
To some it means “a religious way of life I was taught by my parents.”
To some it means rejection, judgement, arrogance, self-righteousness, and hypocrisy.
To some it calls to mind every time they have been made to feel less than valuable.
Whether right or wrong, these are the perceptions when you use the word “Christianity.” I don’t want to play into those stereotypes. I don’t want to give in to assumptions. I don’t want to erect a wall even before we have the chance to talk. Even if that wall is mostly deserved.
Modern Christianity has largely given Jesus a bad name.
The Jesus we claim to serve was harsh with the religious purists, those who thought they had it all figured out. We reward those people.
The Jesus we claim to serve was merciful on the poor, the helpless, and the sinners. We are harsh with them.
It is completely backwards. I am clueless how those who claim to serve Jesus could have erected a religion any more antithetical to His teachings than what we have today.
Think I’m wrong? How do you feel about gay people? How do you feel about Muslims? How do you deal with an atheist? What if a smelly, drunk homeless man wandered in to your Sunday service and plopped down next to you? How would you react?
Far too often I’ve been the one turning away, looking away, running away.
So where do we go from here?
It is not enough to condemn our modern incarnation of church and Christianity. We must redefine those words. We must reclaim them as something authentic and real. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I believe that starts (and probably ends) with love. I’m talking about simple communities of believer who are deeply committed to loving each other and the world around them at the cost of everything else.
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” He said this to His disciples immediately after He had demeaned Himself by taking on the lowliest of possible tasks: washing their feet.
The leadership lesson was clear. Jesus demonstrated the kind of servanthood He expected from His followers. He expected those who called themselves by His name to literally kneel before the world in service and love, humbling themselves. The very word “ministry” in the New Testament is defined as “service, like one who waits tables.”
We have to get back to that kind of love. The kind of love that serves others. The kind of love that forsakes its own interest in favor of those it seeks to lead. The kind of love that says to a woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you.” The kind of love that looks and feels and smells and acts like the Jesus we claim to serve. All the worship services and sermons and megachurches cannot replace the simple acts of love and mercy that were demonstrated over and over again by our Lord.
I’m not there yet, but I want to be. I want to take that journey that ends in me loving those that disgust me. I want to find that place where I serve even those whom I find repulsive. You may disagree with what I’ve said. You may think I’m too harsh, or that I’m too hard on the church. You may think that I’m just some bitter complainer. Think what you will. But I hope you’ll still join me on the journey towards dying to self and loving like Jesus.
I’m tired of messing around, I just want it to be real.