Is This Really What Jesus Was About?
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There is a growing epidemic of negative headlines about the church and some of its leaders. The stories of sex abuse scandals, mismanagement of finances, lapses in judgment and integrity, and downright manipulation seem to be growing steadily. Not to mention the believers who, in the name of God and Country, sanction and promote hate, racism, and xenophobia. All of these things continue to contribute to more and more people asking the question: “Is this what Jesus was about?”
There is also a growing segment of people who, because of these and other issues, no longer want to be affiliated with the church. Some people call this group “De-Churched”. If you consider yourself part of the “de-churched” group or simply identify as someone who is tired of the scandals and sick of the mischaracterizations of God, know that you are not alone.
In addition to the above-mentioned public and embarrassing issues, there is also what I call the “lost in translation” believers' problem. There are believers who are so deep and so dedicated to showing off their Christian knowledge that they act like they’ve just teleported down from heaven. But the problem is they are so deep and complicated, no one understands them at all. All of these things underscore what I have believed for some time - in many ways we have made God far too complicated.
What the Bible makes clear is that God and His Son, Jesus, are not that complicated at all. I believe from the very beginning God has wanted to make it easy for us. In scripture, you don’t see instances where God requires people to jump through hoops, or holds out impossible-to-reach goals, or dangles a report card to slap us in the face with. In fact, part of the reason the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious leaders in the time of Jesus, had such a big problem with Him is because He did not uphold all their complicated laws.
God has never been about religion. Instead, the heart of God is about loving relationship. Religions are based on rules, but relationships are so much simpler. Because our God is simple, a relationship with Him boils down to three things: belief, love, and service.
First, you have to believe. To believe something, you have to accept it as true, correct, or real. You don’t have to test it, prove it, or explain it. You don’t have to debate it, defend it, or advertise it. You don’t even have to fully understand it. You just have to accept it as true. Belief is a function of your heart, not your behavior or intellect. “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” wrote Paul in the book of Romans. It’s simple—believing is the way you can have a relationship with Jesus.
Second, you need His love. Before you can love God or love others, you have to receive the love of the Father. “We love because he first loved us,” wrote Jesus’ best friend, the beloved disciple John. God loved us first, and this enables us to love Him back so we can live our lives empowered by His love, not striving for His love.
God’s love is without conditions. He doesn’t ask for anything from us in order to love us. You’re not loved because of anything you could ever do; you are loved because you are His child. When my kids were born, they didn’t have to do anything to earn my love. I love them because they are my kids, and I loved them before they ever took a breath of air on this earth. There was nothing my son or my daughter had to do for me to love them. When they were born they received my love. Simple.
Lastly, we are called to serve others. “Love each other as I have loved you,” said Jesus. Loving others is a new command from Jesus, because “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” The command is to love, and with that comes service.
So, for those who have walked away from churches because of too many rules, politics, mischaracterization of who God is, or any number of scandals, please know that I get it. My prayer for you is that you find a spiritual community that more closely resembles God’s heart ... it's not that complicated. Belief, love, and service. It’s that simple.
Copyright © 2018 by Van Moody, used with permission.
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