I normally have a very laid-back attitude and don’t worry about much of anything. This is one of the few things I actually do worry about. I’m worried I’m either going to sound like a kook or water it down so much that it doesn’t seem like anything special. The truth is that there’s nothing kooky about it and it is indeed very special. I’m a Christian, and it really does mean something to me.
I’m a Christian. I should just say that and get it out of the way. I grew up in a Christian home, so I was raised with it, and somewhere along the road (when I was 13 or 14) I actually made the faith my own rather than something that was just handed down to me. I don’t mean this as some cryptic religious terminology for a conversion experience, I simply started believing for myself.
One of the most amazing things about the Christian God is His dynamic nature. Mercy and justice, omnipotence and relatability, emotion and intellect, immutability and relevance—God possesses all of these attributes to a degree that, by our human standards, should not be able to co-exist. The Bible says that God created man in His image; I read that to say that God created mankind, as a whole, in His image, and that no human is a complete reflection of that image. The image of God is reflected in the diversity and enormity of the entire human race, with all of its culture, languages, temperaments, mindsets, and quirks.
Some people focus on God’s perfectness—they desire to see Christians become more like God in thought and in deed (and there are people that lovingly and sincerely do this, I assure you). There are others that focus on God’s amazing love for His children and the forgiveness He so freely offers. Neither type of person is entirely right and neither is wrong in his or her concept of God—they are merely reflecting different attributes of God. This is a rather simplistic example, so I hope I’m getting across how amazing that is: every vibrant painting, every Baptist hymn, every tribal dance, every fiery sermon, every heart-felt prayer, every simple smile, every reflective thought, and every striking emotion is just a partial reflection of God’s character.
The same God who desires to show mercy to His people also desires to see justice for His people. He is not just a God of passive love, but a God whose heart aches for the orphans, the vagabonds, the poor, the hungry, the oppressed, and the wrongly imprisoned—a God who desires to help them and see their oppressors brought to justice just as much as He desires to give mercy to all, including those same oppressors. His desire is to see everything—and everyone—made right; and part of that is the desire to see everyone made greater, more complete.
And I ask [God] that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:18-19 (The Message)
Christianity is not a “No no no” doctrine. It’s a doctrine of empowerment and fulfillment. Jesus loved the underdog. He fought oppression and racism and was a radical feminist. The people he picked on the most were the loveless religious leaders who tried to mystify and complicate God by reducing him to a formula and extensive set of rules, making themselves experts and everyone else their inferior.
Jesus came to demystify religion. He wanted people to understand God. Unfortunately, there are people who have continued to take the power of Christianity away from God and into their own hands (the crusades come to mind), much like the Pharisees that Jesus had qualms with.
However, for everything to be made right, there’s a little problem that needs to be addressed: sin, a common state of imperfection held by everyone and everything on this earth. The English word for sin comes from the same Indo-European root word that we get the word yes—it originally meant “that which is.” Sin is a broken, incomplete state of being held by everyone and everything on earth. While this state is held, we constantly grapple with choice—most of the time, choosing between selfishness and love, deception and honesty, or evil and good, if you want to get all religious about it. For mankind to be made right, sin (imperfection) cannot exist. So, while God desires to see all things made right, He also desires to see mankind make a conscious choice to pursue perfection and holiness (meaning, literally, a state of being uninjured or whole, from the same root word that we derive “whole” and “health”). That is why He allows injustice—to allow a sort of “trial period” for mankind to choose to pursue a perfect state of being over an imperfect one. Those who desire perfection in eternity will begin to pursue it now.
The Bible makes it pretty clear that the current state of things is only temporary, and that God’s plan is and always has been to re-create the world once everyone has had a chance to make that choice. God’s instrument of promoting this choice has been left entirely in the hands of those who choose to pursue it. I realize that this raises a lot of questions as to the fairness of leaving such an important message in the hands of people who will constantly screw it up, and I won’t pretend that I have a satisfactory answer for such questions; however, I know God’s character to be more just and fair than I know, and I trust Him to take care of things that I can’t really figure out.
Anyway, I could go on for hours, but the simple truth is that there’s a God who loves you deeply and wants to make you a better version of yourself. Christianity is just recognizing and responding to that first act of love. E-mail me at brandon(a)pulpexplosion.com with anything else you want to talk about.You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.