look what we’ve become

Bloged in apprenticeship, church by rod Wednesday August 17, 2005

I’ve had no time today to sit and organize responses to the responses of my previous post, though it has played in my head and frustrated me all day long. I am just going to rattle off thoughts, though and let you help me sort them out if you’re willing.
Yes, I think the problem is our Theology. Especially our soteriology. Or, perhaps, we’re not actually preaching our theology. Surely we don’t believe that practically everything Jesus taught and modeled was untrue, or he was just joking. How can we disassociate ourselves with others when Jesus clearly didn’t, and also warned against it?

Jesus certainly turned life upside down, but I feel that what got turned upside down in Jesus’ teaching was the self-focus. The Pharisees were entirely obsessed with keeping themselves clean and avoiding people that would dirty them. Jesus taught and modeled getting dirty for the sake of other people. It is not what goes in that makes a man dirty, but what comes out of his mouth, for it speaks to the condition of the heart. Jesus, stooped down got some dirt in his hand and spat in it and put it with his own hands onto the blind eyes of another human being. Being very nature, God, he did not regard equality with God something to hang on to, but humbled himself, made himself nothing and took on a servant’s nature. He said he came not to be served but to serve. He said that many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first. While Jesus asked us to take up our cross and follow him, we preach that our greatest calling in Christ is to Lead. All these attitudes and behaviors, not only place ourselves as less important than we might want to be, but they also place those around us ahead of ourselves - an attitude and behavior that the God of the Universe was willing to practice.

That’s what my morality rant was all about. We have disregarded Christ’s death as the only provision for our debt forgiveness, and discounted his resurrection as our only means of living a life now in him. So Christians use dos and don’ts in place of both these Jesus things, and disregard the greater morality of behaving like Jesus toward other people and his creation around us. The secular world regards morality as feeding the hungry and pleading for the widow and defending the fatherless, while Christians seem to view morality in a much smaller, more egocentric, self-protecting way.
Our theology drives our methodology to the place that we gather so that it becomes a desired homogenous gathering of people in roughly the same age group, social class, economic category, etc., so that we can teach them to include Jesus in their lifestyle. Often, I feel, it’s a lifestyle in which Jesus doesn’t want to be included. We make our lifestyles define what it means to follow Jesus, rather than allowing our Jesus following to define our lifestyles.
What’s more, we let the replication or our lifestyles determine for us if those around us are Christian or not. If our lifestyles define it for us, then it must be the definitive criteria for them too, so if they don’t look, act and live like us, they must not be Christians.
Our theology has become a VERY narrow, well-defined list of moral behavioral issues. The list is conspicuously void of attitude and heart and service, and it rarely has anything to do with how we impact those around us, only how they impact us.
Answers? I wish. I do have rant-motivated things off the top of my head. We need to spend more time learning from Jesus’ teaching in the written Gospel than from “The Prayer of Jabez”, or “the seven habits of highly successful Christian business leaders” (ok, I made that one up). We’ve baptized our hair-dos, our polo shirts, our Capri pants, our SUVs, our seasonally landscaped lawns, our DVDs, our … and recognize these as Christian because what we’re taught is how to plug Jesus into this stuff. Jesus is relevant to golfers AND skaters because the gospel has nothing to do with golfing and skating. We present Jesus as an attachment onto our lifestyles, rather than allowing him to dictate our lifestyles.
We’ve got to start teaching from the teaching of Jesus and teaching the epistles as interpretations of the teaching of Jesus. We’ve got to start applying the whole of Jesus’ teaching to our beings rather than proof-texting with Jesus snippets as if he’s a quotable quote from Reader’s Digest, and resourcing him as help in making sense of tough business decisions.
But that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.

6 Responses to “look what we’ve become”

  1. wingman Says:

    Lots of wisdom here, doc. You are a prophet. We’ll try to remember to bring some food by once in a while for you there outside the city gates.

  2. Peter Says:

    Just a little question. What do you mean by the epistles being interpretations of the teachings of Jesus? I suppose, technically, they are. But to the reader who doesn’t know you it could mean that you are placing less emphasis on the epistles than the gospels - 2 Timothy 3:16.

    But I do say that I fully 100% agree with your post here and am myself guilty of all charges.

  3. Jeffrey Says:

    I was not aware that my questions would evoke a separate post! I must admit that my question about theology was loaded. Seems like we let grace and faith do their magic and then we run back to the law for sanctification. We somehow, at least some people, understand that God did what the law could not do; however, we do not grasp that God also does what the law can not do. Paul is in step with Jesusí teachings when he says in Romans 13, ìlove is fulfilling the law.î According to Paul it appears that love does no wrong to a neighborÖcould this include imposing and demanding the law from him? The obvious question here then is ìIs the law wrongî or ìIs the law bad?î No way (See Romans 7). But then again, what do I know.

  4. dan Says:

    Howdy. Thanks for the interest in my recent post, and I’d love to read what you’ve written; unfortunately, I couldn’t get the link to work. And yes, including Miller was a bit of a cheap shot–it was more aimed at some of his more sycophantic readers than at him per se….
    I hear you on this post, though. One of the base ideas for mega-churches is that people are most comfortable when surrounded by those of the same race and class…it’s funny though, I’ve never read that the main function of church was comfort; moreover, I have read that there is neither slave nor free, male nor female, Greek nor Scythian in the church….

  5. Zechariah Taylor Says:

    Rod, I could not agree more with you. But I am so distraught. I feel the problems you speak of are inherent in the system of the mainstream church’s philosophy of doing “church.”

    In other words, I feel that incorporating the reforms you suggest (of a self-less morality, etc.) into a flawed system will only result in a newly flawed system.

    Is it about time to abandon mainstream Church in favor of simply being communities of believers who really can spend most of their money on caring for the poor instead keeping up a $200,000 a year organization?

  6. wingman Says:

    $200,000.00 a year? Must be a po-dunk operation. I thought it took a $10-million dollar building program to have a REAL church. I mean, any decent preacher ought to get the two hundred thou just for himself, don’t ya think?

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