I really never thought it would come to this. Not in my lifetime, anyway. But increasingly, letters to the editor, columns, Facebook posts, Internet articles and blogs, television commentary, etc. etc. ad nauseum seem entirely content with “defining” Christianity by what this or that person said or did. Andwhether that person is an elected official, Hollywood celebrity, or the Pope, everyone who says he or she is of the Christian faith gets lumped in, expected to take the lumps – because let’s face it: the commentary on Christianity is growing more negative every year.
Which Jesus prophesied it would, by the way.
Jesus who? When I was growing up in the Bible Belt of North Carolina’s Appalachian mountains, just about everyone I knew went to church. We knew who Jesus was from Sunday school and insipid paintings. We would hear stories about missionaries going to islands of cannibals or into the thickest parts of the rain forest or climbing the highest Asian mountains to reach people who had never heard the Gospel, had never heard the name of Jesus and it was magical. Can you imagine? They’ve never heard?
Now it is 2013 and there are people in the United States, long considered the gold standard for Christianization, who have only heard the name of Jesus as a curse word. Have only heard the term “Christian” used derisively, primarily in the media.
Prolific novelist, professor, and apologist C.S. Lewis, perhaps best known for the Narnia children’s’ series that have found their way onto the silver screen in recent years, was also a radio personality in the 1940s. His radio material was geared to an agnostic, skeptical audience, eventually appearing on bookshelves as the classic Mere Christianity, which I heartily recommend. I’m not an apologist, certainly not a scholar of any merit. What I am is a learner, and along the way, I have learned this: I believe that God exists, that he created this universe and perhaps a million million more universes for his own purposes, almost all of which about which I have no understanding.
On planet Earth, the gem of our sun’s solar system, I have come to believe that one rule was given; one rule was broken. Unity between Creator and created was broken. From there, various seekers of truth were educated, called, anointed to lead other seekers of truth in becoming reunited with their Creator. A complex and impossibly difficult-to-follow Law was communicated for two reasons: one, to give people a way to God, things to do and sacrifice so that they felt they had a chance with him; and two, groundwork for something far more efficacious in the future.
At the right time, God found the circumstances and climate in which to appear as a man, as vulnerable
Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh. Therefore, he was either telling the truth or he was the biggest scam artist known to man. There is no room for a “good man” or a “good teacher” or even “a prophet of God.” His words are clear: follow me and love me as God incarnate, or forget me altogether. He did nothing to try and add to his numbers, unlike modern western churches that continually add new programs or build enormous buildings hoping to increase their numbers. If anything, Jesus made it difficult to be his follower. At times it seems he went out of his way to confuse his listeners.
You have to really, really want to follow to do so. And even then, you have to accept the fact that those who have taken the name of Christian have, historically, done and said things so contrary to Jesus’ own teachings that it boggles the mind.
I am a Christian. Raised in the church, I realized as a teenager that I was completely convinced that God exists, and that Jesus was God in the flesh, sent to die on the cross of Calvary (that was that groundwork I alluded to earlier, with the Law) as the final sacrifice for the sins of all mankind, once and for all. We’ve been forgiven. The way has been made clear. It only remains for us to each decide whether we believe it or not.
I’m not a good Christian, mind you. I do not reflect an accurate picture of Jesus’ perfection, or God’s transforming power and love. I’m not even particularly nice much of the time. I sin regularly and at an appalling rate. But I also believe that the shed blood of Jesus is more than enough to cover those sins, which leads me, every time I fall, to thank God for his grace, mercy, and forgiveness, and to pray for wisdom and strength to continue to grow as his child.
So the next time you hear about some whacko Christian saying God hates gays or liberals or Muslims or pushing some political agenda…I hope you’ll remember this one lone voice piping up at Christmas time saying, um, no. That’s not true. That’s not true at all.
God loves his creation so much that he came to live among it, clothed with fallen, frail flesh but living without sin so that he could give his life as a pure sacrifice for all – at once satisfying God’s justice and mercy, all in one fell swoop.
You don’t have to believe in God. He believes in you. And he will do everything he can to convince you that he exists. And beyond that, that he loves you. The life we live on Earth, whether a hundred seconds or a hundred years, is the snap of the fingers compared to eternity - an eternity created for those wish to spend it with their Creator. Those who don't wish it, are not forced to be there. He leaves the choice to us.
Are there troubling issues? Absolutely. Things I don't like about God's ways? Sure. Things I despise about Church and Christians? Yeppers. I even wrote a book about it: Baaad Sheep - When God's People Let You Down (www.smashwords.com). But I am stuck - if God exists, why should I expect him to comply with my wishes, or my idea of him? He is GOD. It makes perfect sense to me that I wouldn't understand everything, or even like everything, he does.
And because I recognize my own imperfections, even as I know that I sincerely believe in him and in Jesus Christ EVEN WHILE committing sin, I recognize that it is completely understandable that other sinful saints will say and do the most ridiculous, horrible things. Embarrassing, but hardly surprising. We are all seeking truth. We haven't arrived. The worst of us think they have, think they have the corner on Truth, think they can fit Jesus into a nice little package or paranoia and ignorance, but he just won't be hemmed in. Imagine the audacity, the pride of that thought: Box the Creator of universes in? I think not.
(c) Ellen Gillette, 2013