What in the world is wrong with Christians? As a person of faith, that may seem like an odd question for me to be asking, but it is one I have been considering for a while. First of all, the term “Christian” brings up all kinds of different images, experiences and feelings depending on the person who is hearing the word. For the most part, it is not a positive term, because it is so often filled with hypocrisy and perceived oppression. I do not call myself a Christian, because although I have been redeemed and saved through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, I do not always live the way He lived or abide by the loving principles He gave us. So I call myself a believer or a person of faith because I am those things. But I digress.
My own view of Christianity and spirituality has certainly deepened over the course of my life but the deeper I go, the more I realize how much is still out there. I was raised in churches that most today would consider very conservative. There were (as there are in most religions) many man-made traditions that had to be followed in regards to the way services were conducted and how things were taught. There was no shouting for joy in our churches. That was reserved for those crazy charismatic people. There was no teaching about the true POWER of the Holy Spirit, but instead a clinical and sterile teaching about what I would consider the most high-level functions of the Spirit. We learned that once we accept Christ as our Savior, His Spirit comes to live within us. We learned God knows everything we do or think. We learned that He loves us, but we never really talked about that love as a literal, day-to-day LOVE. It was clinical and sterile because it seemed to me that no one really walked out of the church and actually felt God’s presence with them. I learned scripture. I learned the books of the Bible. I learned principles of God’s word. I am SO incredibly thankful for my upbringing and the many teachers and pastors I had along the way, because it gave me a foundation upon which I have built a life that has been blessed beyond measure. Many of you who know me personally or read my blog regularly know that I have felt called to study and share God’s word since I was quite young. So my life has been filled with searching things out on my own instead of just taking someone else’s word for it. But there’s something about those experiences in established churches that is both a blessing and yet confining. Yes, I realize it is just my perspective and I’m not saying anyone else has to share it. I just feel it is time to share mine.
I have struggled with many things over the course of my life. There have been eating disorders, suicidal impulses, brain chemistry issues, and many other fears and struggles that we all deal with as we go through each day. I’ve prayed about these things. I’ve sought God’s help with them and yet often find myself much like the apostle Paul who prayed repeatedly for his “thorn in the flesh” to be removed but the answer was no. The answer was that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. So I took that as truth and tried to just power through whatever came instead of realizing God was in it with me. It was (and has continued to be at times) difficult. Did I know God cares and that He wants to not only be my Savior, but also my friend? Sure. I could give you verse after verse that talks about all the ways He loves and cares for us. I know all the right words…but something was missing. It is the intimacy of God and the true strength of His power. After all, if you start talking about these things…wait, if you start actually LIVING these things, you must be some “holy-roller” fanatic that has lost sight of the truth. So maybe I shouldn’t ask “What is wrong with Christians,” but rather, “What is wrong with ME?”
I am blessed to have been taught by some of the most amazing teachers over the past 20 years of my life. Some were within the churches I have attended and some have been outside those churches. GASP! I know that shocks the traditionalists but maybe there needs to be a little more shocking going on. Maybe we need to listen more to others and pay attention to what they say. Maybe we need to spend more time determining the message’s validity based on God’s word instead of determining its validity based on the moniker under which it is said. Of course, that requires an openness many of us were taught to avoid and to listen only to people of the same denomination. What I have found so interesting over the years is how we can teach and learn the truth of God’s word, and even apply it to our lives in most ways, but do it in that same sterile and clinical manner in which many of us have been raised. It isn’t simply that I don’t want this kind of sterile spiritual life; It’s that I don’t believe GOD wants us to have a sterile kind of spiritual life either. He desires for us to be in a real relationship with Him, not just a spiritual one. He wants us to not just know He is with us, but to feel Him with us. He wants us to understand that He wants nothing more than for us to share ourselves with Him just as we would the people we are closest to here on this earth. He wants to be a factor in everything we do, not because He wants to control us, but because He wants to help us.
Having a relationship with another human being means there is interaction. There is give and take. There is a desire to be near and talk with each other. And when you truly love someone (purely, not in a romantic sense), there is nothing better than the closeness it brings. You are part of each other. Relationship isn’t just about knowledge of the other person; it is being IN IT with them. We know this and yet we continue to act as though God is somehow removed from us even though we teach that He isn’t. We are so afraid of talking about our relationship with God in terms we would use to describe our relationships with others, because we somehow think it is sacrilegious to assign human attributes to our Heavenly Father. I get how some people are so careful to keep their discussion and perspective of God as “holy,” but holy isn’t some magical word! It means to be set apart by (or for) God. It isn’t some mysterious thing filled with such seriousness that it wrings the joy out of it. And on top of that, God used parables in the Bible continually to make things real and understandable to those around Him. A parable uses the known to reveal the unknown. So why do we shrink away from the fact that God gives us earthly experiences and relationships so that we can understand more what it means to be in a relationship with Him? Because some of us have been taught, whether through words or actions, that we somehow degrade Him when we bring Him down to our level. Imagine that! I’m pretty sure the God who actually CHOSE to come down to our level and die for us is fine with staying down on our level and communing with us so that we can then rise up to His.
I’m tired of conservative Christianity. I’m not saying I’m tired of one religion or another; I’m saying I’m tired of all of them. I’m tired of having this great knowledge and God-given ability to discern His word that has to be put into some box of expression that fits the expectations of men! I’m not saying I want to run off the rails and live on emotions alone, but there is nothing more “on track” about a relationship with God than the fact a real one will certainly stir emotions! Relationships are personal. Each one is different. We need to all get over the rigid view we have of the truth and embrace it openly, fervently with everything in us. Only then will we fully begin to experience the true power of His Spirit within us. Only then will we begin to truly understand the freedom in His word. If it is true that “you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” then the truth is the only real relationship we ever have with God is the one most of us are afraid to embrace. Because anything short of that kind of intimacy with Him is nothing more than simply keeping up appearances.