“To continue to eye God primarily in terms of laws, obligations, and civil ordinances represents a retreat to a pre-Christian level of thought and rejection of Jesus Christ and the total sufficiency of his redeeming work.” – Brennan Manning.
One of the things today facing us in the body of Christ is the public view of what it is to follow Christ. One of the complications inherent in the world level interaction with how he is viewed is the Christian ability to take an incorrect context of the mission laid out before us in the person of Christ. When we focus on the actual ministry of He whom we emulate, we see that Christ was not traveling from town to town perpetuating a Christian ideology of attainment of spirituality. He was not speaking to others about the large scale reformation of a society which should retreat to an anti-secular perspective of life goals. He did not press others toward a response to him contingent on their adherence to a new set of religious rules, cult and laws. He worked within a fabric of the Jewish state and their laws and rules. His methodology was interpersonal interaction and a change in focus to following him by responding to others in kind, and revealing the source of hope in the Christ. He was not a countercultural force of statement without action. He was not abstinent of a corrupt world for his integrities sake. He was sinless and retained integrity even amidst his touching the lives of the dregs of society. The importance in his message was not the rights and wrongs of religious practice or the pious position coming from obeying God, it was responding to humanity with a new paradigm of belief and mission to react to God and others with love. If there is a description of the change which Jesus brought to be summed up in his ministry, it is love. His love had him give his life for our sins. The Father’s love sent his Son as the means for forgiveness to a world covered in sin. Christ came with love to those in his realm: Practical love of acceptance of the unwanted, forgiveness of the unworthy, service to the lowly, compassion for the greedy and reconciliation of sinful man to a holy God.
The challenge facing us in response to him is to respond to others in a similar manner. One of the weaknesses the general Christian populace experiences is their bound ability to respond or be a source of response that does not penalize their capacity to access their church or Christian subculture. Recently I saw a church that is looking to fill a youth pastor position. One of the tag lines in the posting was, “We are quick to fire, and slow to hire.” What a counter-Christ image to perpetuate as a church? Moreover, they put forth this statement in looking for someone to minister to youth, who will have to suffer this Pharisaical calling while they try to meet the psychologically messy needs of young people in a manipulative society. What is the message that we send to the masses of those in need in our communities when this is our “Christian” ideology. Do we implicitly preach exclusion for the cause of Christ? How many people really believe themselves to be regenerated in Christ to a state beyond humanity? We are all still humans bound in sin to the world we live in, our freedom is in the penalty for our fallen nature. Humans are fallible. Paul echoes this when he states that there is not one righteous. How then do we ostracize others by a meter of intolerance for the sake of Christ? He did not come to make a daunting memorial for saints; he came with a first aid kit and the heart of the wounded healer to care for the sick, the sinful and needy. Somehow in the mission of showing others the benefits of the “Christian” method to living life, we have forgotten the Christ who ate with the tax collector, touched the leprous, restored the dignity of the adulterous to her accusers, and defended the holiness of his Fathers house when people used it as a marketplace instead of the Temple of God. His ministry was not one of determining success by numbers of listeners to his words, or enforcing inclusion into his community by legalistic following of rituals or demonstrating tolerance of those who were condemning of others to retain their lofty, pious position of judgment. He came as the shepherd leaving the ninety-nine to rescue the one. He rested with Mary enjoying the experience of relationship as Martha scurried about preparing, inhibiting her ability to rest in the presence of Christ and enjoy his company. He turned the tables in the temple market for the mockery to the holiness of the Father, yet rewarded the faith on the cross of the good thief as he asked merely that Christ would remember him. The only way to be the light to those in the dark, similar to Christ, is to meet people where they are and continually show them love; forgive them seventy times seven, know them in their physical need and not turn them away, embrace them in their existence with acceptance based in Christ, hurt with them as they struggle to cope with circumstance and be the embodiment of what Christ would be in response to them, if he was standing in front of them. Christ would not bid them to take the magic steps of “Christianity” just to get them in the door; he would touch their lives through love and action in ways which connect to their innate need for everlasting purpose in the Father. Let us redefine what it is that following Christ means to the masses. Let’s leave the old rules behind and embrace others as they are, where they are at in life and be to them what Christ is for us: The gentle loving Savior we know and rely on everyday. Christ the Lord who is our sustainer and provider of purpose and true hope which gives peace beyond understanding. Let us change the perception of what and who we are in need of to others, not a building, not another place to be included in, not another set of criteria to be judged on, but a people living in the grace of the greatest gift that man has ever known.