Getting Christianity Wrong
by Elias Blum
I recently came across the following statement from ‘Exposing the Institutional Church’, a group whose facebook page I follow. I thought it made a good point and was worth quoting and sharing:
Something tragic has occurred in Western Christianity. We have legalized the Gospel to the point where every commandment concerning “obedience” or taking up one’s “cross” has become synonymous with denting a pew, adding mass to an offering bag, and not watching movies with anything over a PG rating. The fact is that when Christ spoke of obedience, denying self, etc…, He was not speaking in the context of modern, American Christianity. Since we see it that way, and since we’ve had it preached to us that way, however, those who see themselves as part of the “Grace camp” unfortunately have to try to explain such verses away, for to them they speak of legalism.
What we must remember is that Christ’s ministry was not about clothes line holiness, or a “no cigars or ‘rated-r’s'” brand of sanctification. It was about a life of others-centered, self-giving love. It was about forgiveness, mercy, grace and service to others. It was about non-violence, peace, and lifting up the downtrodden. It was about coming alongside the broken, the weary and the tormented, and loving them back to life. Christ’s call to deny self and follow Him is not reminiscent of tent revival calls to holiness, but to a radical lifestyle of love and grace.
We do not need to explain Christ’s words away, we just need to understand that He wasn’t an evangelical, hellfire and brimstone preacher. I will lay down my life any day for the things Christ taught, but I will not waste another moment in the swamp of legalistic, man-centered religion.
I often feel like that. That much of contemporary Christianity is closer to the sort of thing Jesus preached against than to the sort of thing Jesus preached. To embrace the Way, Truth and Life of Jesus is, often as not, to put oneself intentionally outside of the institutional, conservative, buttoned-up, respectable forms that Christianity has taken. It’s not about being religious – putting on religious trappings and covering ourselves rituals, doctrines and outward piety. It’s about learning to live in a love so profound that it transforms us from the inside out, and for a love so radical that it can transform our whole society.