…If we are not like Christ.
I realize that it sounds like a pretty radical concept, but bear with me. A short while ago I began to take a step back from my life. I tried my best to take a good, hard look at myself and why I do the things I do (I believe they call it a “quarter-life crisis” these days). I think, at least for me, it’s been a very necessary part of maturing and growing deeper in my relationship to and with God. I’ve grown to believe that we all need to question the very roots of our spirituality at some point or another in our lives. For me, it started with my own understanding of what a love for God truly is (which I’ve previously detailed in this space) and more recently it’s come forth in relation to this thing called “church”.
Along with the majority of my generation, I began questioning it’s viability in respect to our culture (bonus points to me for holding out the longest of most everyone I know, though, right?). Ultimately, I just got to the place where I was so exhausted with the whole song and dance. Growing up in church, I had done my fair share of singing and dancing but why or from where the whole rigmarole came from was never questioned. But then I realized that growing up in it actually gave me the right to question it. Maybe even more so than the people squeaking the loudest. As I’ve come to learn, questioning is not a bad thing (especially after you think you already have all the answers).
And so the questions came: is this really what Jesus intended for His church to look like? And if it is how He intended for His children to gather then why was I getting so burnt out being apart of it? Why was I seeking solace outside its walls instead of within? And why was I so much more comfortable sharing my reservations about it with non-attendees? Many other questions followed, among which I don’t have all the answers: I suggest consulting a good book written by someone who knows what they are talking about. So I guess you could say I was burnt out on this thing of “doing church” and wanted to learn more of what it meant to actually “be the church”. In fact, this led to even more of a revelation in how the church, i.e. “Christians”, conduct ourselves in relation to the rest of the world.
You see, it should be unnecessary for us to go around our communities beating our chests and making racket so that everyone knows that we are indeed Christians. As if we are saying to the world “take note, this is who we are!”, no matter if we actually live like our namesake or not (in case you wondered, this is why they call us hypocrites). I recently came across a story talking about how early believers were first called “Christians” by the people living around them. The world saw these people running around their city and said “look, little versions of Christ!” (1 Thess. 1:8 gives one example of this phenomenon).
How did they know they were like Christ? They had most likely heard stories about Jesus and the life He led and then when they looked at the lives of these “Christians”, they matched up. It was obvious. The people who believed the new covenant that Jesus instituted with man (later it would unfortunately be called a “religion”) and those who lived it out did not have to go around announcing their presence on street corners. They didn’t need to undertake huge marketing campaigns to let people know that they existed. They didn’t fight for equal time. No, they just were…And people noticed.
Like I said, it’s a radical concept.
So then when I look at what “Christianity” has become and what it has been built up to be in our so-called “post-modern”, American-centered world, it really is hard not to wonder: is this what Jesus intended? The world is reading stories about Christ and how He lived when he was on this earth and then they look at those of us who wear ourselves out making sure everyone knows we’re His followers, and they’re saying “hmmm, I don’t see any relation”. I really can’t blame them.
So, are we really “Christians”? It’s really not for us to decide. I mean, sure we’ve accepted His atonement for our sins, i.e. “got saved”, and we all strive to die to ourselves and live for Him each day (or at least we claim to), but as far as this life goes, we won’t be the ones who ultimately decide if we are truly like Him or not.
Our neighbors will.
######Note: This was originally posted on an old Squarespace blog of mine. Most of the references, links and jokes are probably dead.