In a culture of icons, branding, and corporate, political lingo, that sets apart groups and businesses, the church, too, has its buzz words. We seek to communicate in our own terms what is going on. For some it makes us feel “in the know”, part of the crowd, and gives us the feeling that we’re doing it right. Each group achieves something of its own significance and is set apart by the language it develops.
The types of concepts and language that some have called “churchy” do set us apart, but too far apart from the general public who may not know our language. But we like our language. We’ve talked this way so long that we think everyone knows what we are saying, but they don’t. (Ask me about riding in a car in Scotland with 2 people who both spoke Dutch.) The point is that we like things the way they are, whether we understand or not, and don’t touch our status quo Sundays. Also, if you’re serious about being a good Christian, you’ll go out and get a King James Version study Bible. (That one came from working in a Christian book store in the South.)
This sounds as though we are united, but we still get caught up in Church competition between denominations. We believe that we have chosen correctly and defend our little part of the Body of Christ tooth and nail, as though it needed defending. Some believe whatever the pastor says and don’t read much of the Bible for themselves. Others secretly fear they are wrong and worry that possibly another denomination may have a better angle or more of Jesus’ approval.
Just recently pastors in my town were heard to say things like “What are you doing to make Jesus happy?” and “What will you say when God asks why He should let you into Heaven?” In other words, are you doing enough? Statements like these only serve to reinforce performance and nullify grace. But we believe it, fear it, and work for it, putting on a show for a God who says He hates it.
What if we stopped it all? What would it look like if we came to church in blue jeans or met at the beach or hung out with the Methodists or Pentecostal Holiness peeps? What if we could form relationships across denominational lines, even racial lines? What if we actually believed Jesus could heal us? What if we cared for our brother even if we don’t know his name? What if we stopped trying to earn Heaven or Jesus’ approval and simply let ourselves recline enough to receive His offer of unconditional love?
We’ve all seen the Sunday school picture of Jesus outside knocking on the door, waiting to be let in. We put this on Gospel tracts to communicate to sinners the need to let Him in and be saved. But in reality, the picture represents Revelation 3 and the door on which He continues to knock, hand to wood, is the door of the Church.
What would happen if we admitted that even in our best Sunday dress we need more of Him? What would it look like if we threw the door open wide? If we risked the unknown to know Him?
Over several hundred years, we’ve gone from reformation to transformation and yet the biggest change ever brought came by placing those same hands to wood and nailing them there. Brutal death to resurrected life is quite a change. We’re talking real change. Isn’t that what we need? Isn’t God calling for it in my life and in yours, and not so He will be pleased, but so we’ll be healed and blessed to know Him more?
He is the one who single-handedly changes death sentences to life, ugly to beautiful, law to grace, and defiled to pure. Surely He can help us! But we must be weary of trying to live up to the wrong set of expectations , lift our faces above the religious mire of buzz words and bible translations to breathe Heaven’s air. Surely we’re weary of the fear associated with so much depending on our own performance.
I challenge you with the same challenge I receive – don’t put a form of faith in your buzz words, denomination, or Bible translation. Don’t elevate your calling or position above others. But see Jesus knocking on the door, hand to wood, and follow Him down “a road less traveled” into the unknown, the path you were designed to walk. Let Him take you from broken to whole. He is a place of grace, beauty, and acceptance for your soul. He is a place that requires letting go of your grip on the past, on tradition’s control, and the fear of trying to be good enough to take that hand previously nailed to wood, strong and sure, that loves and leads you out.
I taught my children a finger play when they were young that goes like this,
“Here’s the church and
Here’s the steeple,
Open the doors and
Here’s the people.”
How about a new version:
“We are the Church and
He is the steeple,
Open the doors and
Free all the people.”
PS: This is a short space to say so much, so comments are encouraged.
(c) Robin Lawrimore, 2011