Monday, July 28, 2014

The Most Important Thing

     Let me be clear from the start: this is not a church bashing post.  I don't hate the "bride of Christ" (for the secular among us, this phrase is basic Christianese among the churched- It translates to just another adjective for Christ's church.  I'll be throwing of few of these odd phrases in here, likely.  Bear with me).  Rather, I would like to see her become more like the thing of beauty that Jesus spoke of whenever He talked about the "kingdom of God".  Okay?  All clear?  Then, "Fire at will, Commander!"

  My husband and I both grew up in the Christian church in the 80's and 90's.  Recently, we've realized that from the time we both hit Youth Group (me about 6 years earlier than him), we ran into an ideology that shaped how we viewed people.  And it definitely wasn't from God.  The leaders in our churches began to tell us, like Luke Skywalker being coached by Obiwan, "You have a very special destiny.  You are going to reach the world."  That's incredibly beguiling to a bunch of youngsters fresh out of elementary school.  Not only was the salvation of the entire world now resting on our shoulders, as the older in the church watched in breathless awe to see what our young and untrained hands might accomplish, but we were "special".  "Unique".  "Called".  Every single one of us.   We were single-handedly going to transform the world.  Well, at least those of us who made it through high school and college without succumbing to the "intellectual" thought of no moral absolutes and/or gave up on holiness in one way or another in order to chase after our own desires.

  "So, you're saying that people aren't special?"  Nope.  That's not what I'm getting at.  Hang with me a moment here.  I'm not even saying it's wrong to chase after desires.  After all, the God-given ones are things He wants to give us, anyway.

  The thing that I'm griping about is that the church taught us that the Most Important Thing was to save the world.  We were "called" to do so, which meant that God was expecting this of us also.   So, in order to please the Almighty, we must fulfill the impossible, really.  It was going to be one tough deal to make God happy, but--not to worry!  Our leaders had told us that it was our destiny, so obviously, the Maker of the World would be swinging a few deals behind the scenes and pushing a few buttons to ensure that we were all inserted into the "right place at the right season" and eventually the magic doors would fling open wide, and our Grand Opportunity to do our part in Saving the World would have come.

  You can see the problems inherent with this sort of teaching, already, can't you? It creates a "Rockstar" mentality:  which is why you see the competitive D personality types who managed to jump through the hoops of holiness and religious bylaws going out and building ministries where they are going to prophesy to millions and save millions.  It's always millions.  In order to really please God, there's big numbers involved.  (Does it drive anyone ELSE crazy to see the elders taking the body count during the church service?  Or being asked how many were in your small group?)

Look, I get it.  Every one of these churchy ideas has a grain of truth to it.  Yes, each individual is incredibly precious.  Yes, God probably does have a calling on each individual's life.  There is a unique giant for you to take down that no one else can.  But is this the Most Important Thing?


I can say that with authority because Jesus was asked about the Most Important Thing.  Remember the rich young ruler?  He'd kept all the Jewish laws and seemed like a good guy who really wanted to know.  And Jesus told him:  "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself."

That, is the Most Important Thing.  It has nothing to do with a ministry.  It has nothing to do with millions.  In fact, it has nothing to do with the church.  It has to do with loving Jesus and the person who lives on the other side of the fence from you.  Or across the hall.  Or in the other cubicle.  And if you can't do that, then Corinthians says you're just a "clanging symbol".  I'm not going to throw a bucket-load of guilt on anyone, like my youth pastors did to me (and heaven knows, they were probably getting it loaded on them, too).  This doesn't mean we all start picketing for Jesus.  That's kind of missing the point.

Jesus was asked the neighbor question, too.  I can't better the story of the Good Samaritan.  All I'm suggesting, is that maybe...just maybe...that little circle of people in your world--let's just start with the five folks who you run into the most in a given month, outside of your family--are maybe the ones God sent you to be loved on.  Maybe it's just about them and Him.  Because He loves them and says they're important and if they were really special and unique (which we say we believe), than they are worth spending ourselves on.  Trying to discover how we can love them (because we usually can't figure this out on our own).  Praying for them.  Giving, but not letting them know it, if possible.

Well, if we as a church were really doing that, then there would be less finger-pointing at us.  And we wouldn't come across as self-important pricks who only care about someone because they'll be another number who can be counted as being "touched by your ministry", and chalking up that tally to reach your million for the kingdom of God.

Wouldn't it be cool?  To love on someone where no one else sees it.  Where you can't get credit for it on earth at all?  To give sacrificially just for the hell of it? 

I think it would.