Just a short thought this morning - but fairly loaded.
I'll start with the background story.
My friends were talking about their son, a young adult who hasn't been involved in a church community since he left home. He's arrived at one of those places where the impact of faith in his life could pretty-much go either way. At work, his boss talks about Jesus all the time. You'd think that might be a good thing, right? But no, the way his boss pushes and imposes Christ is a complete turn off. Essentially, the presentation is "in-your-face" and intrusive.
The result is one more young adult discouraged from showing up at church and - consequently - one more young adult edged further away from the nurture and encouragement of a faith community.
I am coming to the conclusion that, rather than simply offering one more variety of experience and witness, much of what is passed off as Evangelical Christianity in North America actually runs counter to the Gospel message.
The Jesus I meet in the New Testament launched his ministry by telling people:
The Lord's Spirit
has come to me,
because he has chosen me
to tell the good news
to the poor.
The Lord has sent me
to announce freedom
to give sight to the blind,
to free everyone
and to say, "This is the year
the Lord has chosen."
On another occasion Jesus summarized the Gospel by telling the following story (Luke 10:25-37):
An expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
(In reply Jesus told the story of The Good Samaritan....)
Then Jesus asked - "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
I'm concerned that the strident, pushy, Jesus-as-a-political-conservative, "We're-right-you're-wrong" militant fundamentalism that characterizes the message of the noisiest 21st-Century "Evangelicals" is actually promoting a message that cannot, indeed should not, be confused with what it means to be a Follower of the Way of Jesus.
- YOU - "But Derek, I'm confused," you may well say. "Didn't you just make one of those strident, 'I'm right you're wrong,' statements yourself?"
- ME - And that's part of the problem, isn't it? How does one take a stand against intransigence (refusing to moderate a position, especially an extreme position; uncompromising) without being equally guilty of intransigence?
But, regardless of how I'm presenting myself, and my evident hypocrisy, I honestly am taking a stand against what I see as a dangerous trend - and that is the manipulation of the name of Jesus to advance agendas that are primarily political, cultural, economic and social.
Jesus came to reconcile the world to God, to demonstrate the unconditional and redemptive love of God, and to teach us how to live as servants, agents of love in a broken world. That's an agenda I can live with.
Peace - DEREK