She was one attractive young lady in her late twenties. She had it ‘all’; a career to die for, designer clothes, a swank apartment, confidence, much traveled, and very appealing to males. What I saw, what impacted me as I chatted with this professional woman was a soul grasping, yearning for something more in life, something spiritual to give meaning and hope. My heart went out to her.
Her live-in boyfriend was something else. a hardened cynic hellbent on success in his profession. He didn’t want to know anything about our discussion as he went between the kitchen and his balcony. I was an intrusion he made clear by his constant interruptions and remarks.
Her: “You’re not into religion?
Me: “Yeap. That’s right. Haven’t a religious bone in my body anymore, I hate what religion has done to what I believe is important for life. It has come to mean something else other than what He intended”
Her: “Aren’t you a priest or a pastor or something?”
Me: “Well yes, it’s probably more something else, these days.”
Her: “I was baptised and confirmed but I don’t go to church anymore. I found it…..aahh …..didn’t answer my questions or matter to how I was living.”
Me: “For me that is certainly a part of the problem. You didn’t know the One you said you believed?”
Her: “My boyfriend Carsten and I have been living together …. the last few years, he’s a lawyer. I’ve tried going to other churches, you know the Pentecostal ones but they seem more lively at first but then I don’t know it becomes more same old, same old as before ……… and they are only interested in you if you do what they want. I wanted to find answers ……… I know Jesus is God and all that but but ……. I don’t know ……….. I’m confused.”
Me: “My friend that’s what religion does. Religion confuses and muddies the waters and you can’t see Him clearly. JESUS meant something other than what we have made it or what it has become. Do you want to know God?”
Her: “Know God? How can you do that? I think there is a God. But what do you mean? How can you know God?”
Me: “I don’t like to be called a Christian anymore because of all the baggage that comes with it. I am a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, like the first ones who believed. Jesus was God’s way of saying He wanted us to get to know Him up close and personal like. They knew He was the way back to God; the God who thought we are worth knowing. Really it is all about love, about relationship. We have made it something else. It is not merely about correct doctrines and rituals, rules and regulations. It is about knowing a person right through your life, doing something good with your life then stepping into eternity to continue that relationship.
Her: I don’t want to be religious ………. but how can you know God? Seems too good to be true? And what about sin and how angry God is with us??
Me: What is too good to be true?
Her: How can God love me? look at me, I’m living with my boyfriend, I party …. I like to party, you know life has got to have some pleasure …… then there are the other things …….
Me: Sounds to me like you are agreeing with God about His diagnosis of us ……
Her: I guess so. I have broken most commandments ……. I had sex with a married colleague ……. a couple of years ago when we both got drunk at a Christmas party; Carsten doesn’t know about it.
Me: So you think God is going to reject you because of your many sins?
Her: Why shouldn’t He? All I’ve done is fail every time I’ve tried to be a Christian.
Me: Well God would reject you if He was like us; if He acted from the same attitudes that plague us. Fortunately for us He doesn’t operate from shame, punishment, obligation and retribution. He knows who we are and because of that He has done for us what we can’t do ourselves. The Good News is God truly loves us, has forgiven us and provided life with its many blessings for us.
Her: I believe Jesus died for my sins but I find it hard to obey Him. Doesn’t matter how hard I try I mess up.
Me: Linley, God knows you inside out, your every thought, every deed you have ever done and will do. He does not merely call for obedience. Being with Jesus is something more wonderful than a belief. Life is about His life being in you, doing His good stuff, enabling you to be the person He has made you to be.
Her: How can God love me?
Me: He can’t if you think He thinks like you. There is nothing I or you can do that surprises God. He loves us that is why He changes us; not so He can love us but because He loves us He doesn’t leave us like He finds us, living in a way that continues to bring sadness, loneliness and dysfunction to our living. He has done everything to dig us out of the pit we have dug for ourselves.
Her: What you are saying makes something happen inside me …….. I don’t know I can believe it though. I’ve tried all this faith stuff before and it hasn’t worked ………………..
Me: Linley the first step is always to repent of our sins, to turn back into God’s way. God is faithful to forgive us, to embrace us with great affection and make us completely clean. He does what we can’t. Do you think for one second the situation you are in, pleases God. This not about religion or religious duty. This is about relationship, right relationship with the God who loves you and wants you to know Him intimately. Just as there are laws of honesty and faithfulness in human relationships so there is with God. He knows what we need to live a healthy, fulfilling life; if we’ll but listen to Him.
Her: I don’t know that I can. I like what I’m doing.
Me: Now there’s the honesty and the crux of the matter, hey?
Her: Her head was bowed as she avoided eye contact.
Me: Linley this is your decision, not mine. You, like the rest of us, are the one who has to live with the choices made.
Me: Linley I’m not into pressuring people. Jesus never did neither will I. No music to stir the emotions so I will only ask you this once. Do you want to repent and walk in God’s way? Do you want to ask for forgiveness?
Her: If I don’t, will you still be a friend or will you not bother with me anymore and move on to others to convert like all those other Bible believing Christians? They left me when I couldn’t make it before.
Me: Linley, not only will I still be there for you, I will pray for you consistently, is that okay? God is not who most think He is. Jesus loves us more than many know. He is not out to get us neither is He angry with us. The evil we do does bring His wrath and His discipline. He knows our bias to do what we want when we want for selfish reasons.
There is a call for something more than most are experiencing.
There is more to ‘church’ and faith in Jesus than ‘traditional’ church regardless of whether it is a pumped up Pentecostal fest on the weekend or a cognitive smorgasbord of theology. Jesus means for us to know Him so well our lives in the everyday gives fragrance to His being with us (Emmanuel).
The question is always “do we as His people have something to give besides merely trotting out doctrines on how to be saved, live a holy life etc.? Christianity is not merely about an intellectual assent to a set of beliefs. Being a follower of Jesus is about a life transformed that reeks with good and beautiful fruit.
Are beliefs important you betcha!!! What we believe impacts how we live our lives. The problem is we only give mental assent to a set of what we call beliefs. For a lot of people there are blockages for what they say they belief getting into their inner-belief system. Believing according to the New Testament is to be thoroughly persuaded that you place your confident trust in Him (not merely a doctrine but a Person Jesus) therefore you lean upon and live relying on that, you faithfully act it out in daily living. (The Apostle John uses this most frequently – more than any other writer in the NT)
Belief is more poignant, more pervasive, all embracingly practical when we have New covenant belief. It moves us from mere assent or agreement of some doctrine or ritual to living life – the life of Christ that is in us, among us becomes living through us.
Therefore look at what you are doing – running a church or going to church rather than being the church – so what is it you believe that stops you from being Church?
What are the measures of whether Church is dysfunctional and ineffective?
So what is it you believe about love that you don’t love or care for the sheep in your ‘care’? When ‘meetings’ have so many people with posteriors on pews with pain twelve inches above – how is it we don’t know our brothers and sisters are hurting?
In their hearts in desperate states of loneliness, depression, isolation; marriages under enormous pressures which hardly anyone knows or even cares as long as they add to the numbers, pay their ‘tithes’ to support the leaders in ‘charge’ and their visions?
“Simon barJonah do you love me more than these?
“Feed my lambs!”
“Tend my sheep.”
“Feed my sheep”
We may say we have affection for Him; He will question our ‘affection’ as He did with Brother Peter to bring him to an awareness of what we love more than Him; in so doing our attention is focused back on Him.
Then He will ask us to tend and feed His sheep, no matter the costs, whoever we are.
Merely meeting on a Sunday doesn’t cover His instruction, merely agreeing to a set of doctrines doesn’t mean we love one another enough to ‘tend and feed’ one another’.
Sectarianism is carnality. There is one Body, one Church, His.
If it struck a cord with you would you please forward to your friends.
(C) Copyright Wayne R Crockford 2011 Canberra Australia