For starters, I’m not big on writing about problems. I’d much rather be offering solutions, and there are so many good things to say about the Body of Christ. I doubt that pointing out flaws is the best route to transformation. However, after silently watching another round of hoax/scam/conspiracy articles appear carelessly on my Facebook wall, propagated across social media channels as actual news by my Christian friends, the time has come to speak up.
We are the Body of Christ. We are intended to be walking encounters with Jesus for a world desperate to find Him. But instead of our lives reflecting His glory, too often, we actively hide Him. Why does this matter?
You might be the only Jesus someone ever encounters.
The “Christ” in your Christian tag might be the only glance your friends or family members ever get at the One who paid it all. As sons and daughters of God, everything we say or do is a reflection upon our Father in the eyes of the World, and far too often, the things we do and the words we say hide the Father completely rather than reflecting Him. The world needs to encounter our beloved Savior; we have to stop hiding Him.
I’m not here to write a snarky, self-righteous article criticizing the Church. I’m here, because, in this moment, I truly believe the first step is admitting we have a problem.
1) Illusions of Persecution
This last New Year’s Eve, 16 Nigerian Christians were injured, and 3 killed when Muslim gunmen attacked an evangelical church. That is persecution. Getting verbally dismantled because you don’t know what you’re talking about is not persecution. Having a colleague unfairly call you “ignorant” because he doesn’t know how to handle amicable disagreement is not persecution. Having Barack Obama as President is not persecution. In the United States, we’ve made a habit of crying wolf at the slightest of offenses. We spend all our time fighting to have our perspectives respected, instead of becoming people the world can’t help but respect.
2) Disinterest in Truth
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:6
If Jesus is “the truth,” then truth in any area reflects and points to Him. If I’m disinterested in truth, I’m disinterested in Jesus. If I’m scared of truth that doesn’t fit with my currently held perspective, then I don’t truly believe that Jesus is the Truth.
Unfortunately, the secular world tends to have a higher value for truth than we do, at least truth that can be understand with the rational mind, and we obscure the Truth when we vilify their nonspiritual revelations of the Creator. Ever heard of the Big Bang Theory? I’m sure you have, and you’ve probably argued against it on several occasions. What a 30 second Google search could have told you, is that this theory was championed by a devout Catholic priest, whose understanding of the intersection between faith and science is unparalleled. It was initially rejected, until exhaustive evidence was found, because it was the first proposed scientific theory of the universe’s inception that was perfectly compatible with Creation. After listening to a more completed version of the theory in 1933, Albert Einstein stood up and applauded, saying, “This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened” (NY Times).
Why am I telling you this? Because you probably were unaware. Too often, we simply argue against the ideas we’ve been told to argue against, without even a basic understanding of the topic we’re discussing. When we vilify or devalue truth, in any capacity, we hide Jesus, the Truth. When we repeat hearsay or use inaccurate facts and statistics in our sermons and conversations, we hide Jesus. When we refuse to learn and grow in our understanding of God, we hide Jesus.
3) We Know It All
As a whole, we’ve countered our disinterest in non-spiritual truth with a demand for perfect theology. It’s as though we think the ultimate secret to successful Christianity is airtight doctrine. It’s my personal belief that the Church’s widespread decline from a supernatural lifestyle left a void of demonstrated authority which needed to be filled. Our best answer to the insecurity of a powerless life has become the self-righteousness of a “perfect” belief system. We think having the answer to every question is the only way to achieve authority with men and peace of mind for ourselves.
Regardless of where this need for perfect theology comes from, the Church has found itself paralyzed by the need to understand an infinite God with finite minds. The fact is, you will always be wrong about God on some level, and that’s perfectly okay. We will spend the rest of eternity getting to know Jesus, line upon line, faith to faith, glory to glory.
When we pretend to know it all or hold ourselves to a standard of perfect theology, we hide a relational Jesus who values the journey just as much as the destination. He came to reveal the Father through relationship, and it’s time we started doing the same.
4) Blatant Hate
Plain and simple, the hate must stop. I’m not just talking about the crazies. We’ve inserted hate into a religion of love in far more ways than the signs held high by televised fanatics. We have become far too careless with our words, shamelessly denigrating sinners and public figures we disagree with instead of loving them, praying for them, and declaring words of life and blessing over their lives.
We are the Body of Christ, the hands and feet of Jesus. We should be love incarnate. Our Savior spent far more time disciplining the religious than He did the unclean, and yet we’ve learned nothing from His example. Until we understand that He is love, we will never be able to reveal Jesus on the Earth. When we hate, we hide Jesus.
5) Tolerance Above Love
This is the caveat to my previous point, and it’s listed second for a reason. Love is not agreement. If I love you, I want the best for your life, and no one is better at giving you abundant life than our heavenly Father. Unfortunately, a rising trend in the Church is to simply embrace the world’s worship of tolerance as a paramount core value.
There is nothing tolerant about Christianity. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt 16:24). “The way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt 7:14). Relationship with God has never been on our terms. Jesus did not come to give us a sales pitch for conversion. He came to offer us the chance to be sons and daughters of the Most High – children of God – coheirs with Christ. He died so that we could exchange our lives for His.
When we glorify tolerance and treat the Gospel like a sales pitch, we hide the reality of Jesus and the gravity of His sacrifice. When we neglect the living Word, which divides between soul and spirit (Heb 4:12), we hide Jesus. When we deny an offensive Gospel, we hide Jesus.
6) We Don’t Actually Know Jesus
I think the biggest problem the Church faces today, and the single greatest reason we hide our Savior, is that we simply do not know Jesus. We know plenty about Him. We’ve read a few things He said, and listened to plenty of people analyze what He said, similar to any other celebrity we follow on Twitter, but so few of our number genuinely know Him anymore.
We’ve replaced encounters with programs, facilitation with production, and relationship with doctrine. We send our new converts out to “evangelize” with their regurgitated hearsay, because they have that “first love fire,” which for us, is but a distant memory. We might have experienced God before, just enough to write articles on how it’s a relationship, not a religion, but at the end of the day, we feel no more connected to our supposed Father than that celebrity we saw once at the airport a few years back. If we don’t know Jesus, how can we reveal Him to a world desperate for His touch?
“For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.” John 12:49-50
Jesus was constantly about His Father’s business, rather than His own. He spoke only what the Father was speaking. “His commandment is eternal life.” Not eternal damnation. We have to shift our priorities. He is worthy to be well-represented by His people. But it’s not about quoting Scripture. Words of truth, acts of humility, and a lifestyle of love all play a part, but the single greatest way we emulate the Father is by becoming like Him.
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” 2 Cor 3:18
We will never be an effective witness until we intimately know our Jesus. We can never accurately represent a God we do not truly know. When we behold His face, spending time in worship at His feet, we become like him. The paranoia, lies, arrogance, hate, and confusion begin to fade away in the light of His goodness. When He becomes the glory of our own hearts, when we see Him in His splendor, we can not help but follow His leading, partnering with His heart wherever we go. He is just too beautiful. He is too worthy. He is too marvelous. And no matter how deeply we get to know Him, there is always more of Him to be had!
My prayer is that we would stop hiding Jesus and start seeking His face. That we would stop quoting the words of a Man we do not know, and simply become one with Him instead.
Let us never cease our pursuit of His heart.