I don’t think we really get it. Born and raised in the church Jesus Christ has always just been there. And like a well-worn pair of slippers he is comfortable, familiar, easy to get along with.
It has taken me years to realize how radical he was and how radical he intends to be in my life.
But of course radical and evangelical-church-going don’t really go hand in hand.
A few of the rules at evangelical-church-going are this:
- play it safe
- come every Sunday
- look put together
- protect yourself from bad people
- dissasociate with anyone who doesn’t believe as we do
Christ came and from the way he lived life on earth his rules seem to be:
- give yourself away, give your life away
- beware the ones making the rules
- eat with the ones who are outcasts (according to the religious system – they actually were never outcasts)
- make friends with the unlovable
- rebuke the keepers of the rules
On my recent trip to Mozambique my host pastor kept asking me for more rules. At first I had no idea what he was talking about. Yet as the days went by I began to see that his goal was to in fact make rules for the churches that he oversaw.
On day five I gave him this set of rules, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
He didn’t seem to know what to do with this.
On days ten, eleven, and twelve I began speaking about the church leaders at the time of Jesus Christ. They too were intent on rules, on purity, and putting on a good show. And they hated Jesus.
With a passion they hated Jesus. For Christ came and broke all the rules.
Today, how much of what we do is due to the rules we’ve built in and alongside the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Today, is the North American model of church a modern day pharisee?
It’s worth thinking about. It’s worth exploring.
The thing is I remember being very uncomfortable with relationship with Christ, I just wanted rules, “Give it to me in black and white and I’ll get it right.” When we are not comfortable with relationship we will always default to rules.
We like to be in control. We like to be told what to do. We like to play it safe and there is nothing so safe as black and white rule keeping – except that it is also the surest way to die inside.
The problem with rule keeping is that it extracts a irretrievable toll on our emotions, our thinking, our generosity, our understanding alongside each other, and of our very lives.
The churches that I visited in Mozambique had lost their intuition and understanding of God. They just wanted me to tell them how to be, what to do, what not to do.
This isn’t life. This isn’t relationship with God. It’s not walking with Christ or our Holy Spirit.
Just tell us what to do is the cry of hearts that are afraid, unsure, insecure.
Christ came to do away with fear, to bring surety, and encompass us in security.
Surety and security not in terms of our rule keeping, but in terms of the fact that the living God most high has our backs. That we are kept in the embrace of our Lord, we are tucked into the robe of our King, we are covered by the blood of the lamb, we are loved, cherished, sung about, delighted in.
We have new hearts and God’s ways are written there. Trust this. Live this.
And because of this we can swing wide, reach farther, take risks, walk in uncertainty, move through life without having all our ducks in a row.
Before Christ there was rule keeping. There were those on the inside and those on the outside. Before Christ we lived in fear of being found out.
After Christ we’ve been found out but found beautiful and precious, with lives that are never the same again.
Christ came and broke all the rules and the church leaders hated him for it. He turned everything upside down and inside out. He made everything new.
Is He making everything new in your life?
How is Christ changing the face of your religious habits and rules?
Is he turning over any tables in your life?
Because, if he is not, you just might be missing out on the Christ.