Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Answer

DISCLAIMER: These are my thoughts...because this is my blog. My passion is my spiritual life so it tends to be what comes out when I sit down to write. I hope nobody ever thinks that I am pointing a finger and thinking I have it figured out. I don't! I am just speaking from my observations and with deep honesty about how I see things. Again, I apologize if I hurt or offend anyone. My goal is to get things out of this crazy brain of mine and perhaps make you think. Read on, you've been warned. ;)

I remember a time when I thought the answer to every question was “Jesus”. Stomach ache? Jesus. Close parking space because my legs are sore from the gym? Jesus. No rain so the tennis match doesn’t get cancelled? Jesus. Rain so the tennis match DOES get cancelled because I have an early morning? Jesus.

I think it is cute now hearing my boys, 5 and 9 years old, say the same things I did for so many years. My oldest hurt his finger the other day and he told me not to worry because Jesus was going to make it feel better. My youngest asked if anyone was strong enough to pick up a building and when I said “No” he said, “You’re wrong. Jesus can.”

The way we view Jesus and our lives is so messed up. We thank him for the front row parking spot as though he orchestrated a miracle so we could be lazy. Funny thing is, if Jesus were driving, he would likely have bypassed that spot to leave it for someone else. We thank Jesus for the unexpected upgrade to first class thinking we have “God’s favor” but he would likely have turned around and offered the upgrade to another passenger. We even thank him when we win football games as though he played a part in making us score more points than our opponents. We pray it doesn’t rain so our hair looks good for picture day yet there are farmers just down the road that depend on that rain for their livelihood and when it doesn’t rain and our hair looks fabulous, we thank him because he answered OUR prayers. Even more sobering, we pray that Jesus turns the storm from our home and then find out that the tornado wipes out an entire town. Oops.

Sometimes I think that we try to sell Jesus. We promote him like he is a “genie in a bottle” who can be rubbed when we really want or need something. Or maybe we promote him more like the “miracle potion” to drink or apply to our pain and everything bad will go away if we have enough faith, of course. I know that’s what my kids think. I am afraid that is what I thought for many many years. Funny thing is, it didn’t work most of the time. In spite of my prayers, Jesus didn’t whisper the answers to the test in my ear, I still got the stomach virus even though I asked for Jesus to protect me from it, and people still died even when 2 or more were gathered to beg for their healing.

Let me set the record straight before anyone thinks that I am going to bag on Jesus. It’s not going to happen. I’m a Jesus believer and a Jesus follower. I’m just not so certain I am in complete agreement with who some say Jesus is. Often times I wonder if he showed up now in 2011 if many of his followers would even recognize him. He wouldn’t be standing on a street corner holding signs condemning the gays. He wouldn’t be driving a new SUV and talking at prosperity conferences proclaiming that all you need is faith in him and you could be rich. He wouldn’t be on any billboard advertising miracle vitamins and encouraging you to go tell your friends. He wouldn’t be at a political rally promoting capitalism and strategizing how to help the rich stay rich while the gap between the rich and poor continues to widen at a shameful rate…I wonder if he would even be in a church.

When will we stop focusing on what Jesus can do for us and start paying attention to the life he lived and the lessons he taught with his life. Jesus didn’t talk down to people. He defended the rejected. He noticed the short guy in the tree. He was annoyed by the pious religious “know-it-alls” and did a good job of annoying them by not validating them or conforming to their ways. He was protective (even of the prostitute who was about to be dodging stones). He loved his friends. He fought against culture. He chose people over religious practices. He wept. He knew how to party and I bet enjoyed some really good wine on occasion...rumor has it, he even made some out of water! Even when he was tired, he paused and made sure people’s needs were met. He looked people in the eye. He washed feet. He took the time to love children. He was the epitome of compassion love and grace. And even at the point of his death, when he was beaten and completely rejected, he had compassion. He recognized that the very people who were spitting in his face and piercing his sides didn’t know what the hell they were doing and he forgave them. GRACE!!!

Seriously what kind of person would not have been drawn to this man?

I think Jesus is more honored when we emulate who he was instead of just sing about how great we think he is. If we sing for hours about his love and amazing grace, it is just a waste of breath if we then just hop in our leased vehicles and hide away in our expensive homes all in the name of the American dream...after all, we have “In God We Trust” on our money so God has to bless us, right? What good is it if we don’t love our neighbors AND our enemies, meet eyes with strangers who long to be notices, and give generously to people who really need not just (or necessarily) in the offering plate. I think if Christians as a whole really lived like Jesus, Christianity wouldn’t be so repulsive to so many in the world. Maybe if we would love each other and not try to control each other with religion, more people would want to take part in the conversation.

Case in point, when I was 35 years old, I stepped foot for the first time in a bar. My marriage had fallen apart and I wasn’t quite sure if God still loved me. That night I sat across from a girl who was raised in my same church background. She opened up to me about her life and how she had been asked to leave her church. Church members had even come to court during her divorce and petition to take her children away from her because her lifestyle didn’t align with their reading of the Bible. I looked her in the eye and even though I was still unsure about nearly everything, I knew to my core that God still loved her. And if God loved her then God still loved me. She didn’t need The Four Spiritual Laws. She didn’t need for me to tell her about how we are born with a “sin nature“. She didn’t need for me to prove to her that religion had all the answers and all she needed was a new crisp Bible and some discipline. She needed to know that she mattered. She needed to know that she was loved. She needed to know that no matter where she was on her journey that she had a friend who would remind her that people sometime suck, but God loves her just as she is!

For me, the message of the cross is the affirmation of God’s incredible love for us. The message of Christianity is confusing and sometimes seems so far from the message of Jesus. If His life and death were all people knew of Him, perhaps more would experience the changing power of knowing that the Creator loves them (PERIOD). There is no stick to measure up to. There is no set of required rules to earn God’s love. God loves everyone - no matter their race, gender, religious beliefs, sexuality, whether their “good” or “bad”, their likes, dislikes, habits, hobbies, family, history or future. God’s love just is! It's our job to believe it!

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