Friday, January 30, 2015

Facing facts

Most people are not evil, nor are most people complete fools. We are, however, a very selfish race, and ungrateful. Some of us have met with circumstances in our lives that have halted us in our tracks, making us look at and think about the world around us a little more deeply. There is, after all, a lot to ponder. The deeper we live our personal stories, the more we can begin to understand the stories of others, and empathy grows in us. The human mind seeks patterns in its experience of the world and of the self. There are plenty of patterns out there too, and it seems the more we look for, the more we find. Sometimes we try so hard, we even find patterns that aren’t really there. Hence, the humanist atheist’s criticism of ‘religion’ and God, which sometimes comes close to the truth.
So much for the human world and our experiences there.

Still, some of us, as flawed as we are, and as damaged, insist on the reality of a Being we call God. Most of us are also not evil, nor are we complete fools either. We find ourselves to be, in spite of our ‘belief’ in the existence of the Being we call God, very selfish and, yes, ungrateful too, just as selfish and ungrateful as the rest of humanity. That doesn’t stop us from believing and insisting that this God exists, whatever else we do or say about Him. This fact gives the majority of people a very sour taste in their mouths when it comes to the subject of ‘religion’ and God, or as we have it in America, a ‘Christian’ country, the subject of church. Most people are not evil, nor are most people complete fools. They can tell when people are ‘playing church,’ and being sensible (except for a universal blindspot—personal sin) they want no part in the ‘game,’ and can you blame them?

Most people will only play games that they’ve made up and whose rules they’ve accepted, games that are ‘fun,’ and which they think they can win, that is, that’ll put them ahead of others. Hmm, what does that remind me of?

Back to my statement that most people are not evil, at least they don’t think they are. They haven’t yet encountered sin, or else they’ve refused to acknowledge it, being tutored by a world system that actually glorifies it under other names. So not meeting sin in themselves, or hiding from it, thus being unaware of the bad news about themselves, they have no ears for the good news. If they have heard the bad news preached at them somewhere, that only hardens their hearts against the good news even more. ‘First they tell me I’m broken, so they can fix me, but if you ask me, it’s them that are broken and need fixing! They can keep their Jesus!’ I wonder, why they would think that?

Can it be true that most people aren’t complete fools? Even if they were able to see their brokenness or whatever they might call it—though sin is its real name—how should they respond if the ‘repairers of the breach’ are easily seen to be just playing a game, pretending to be healers, helpers, heralds of good news, but in fact, only playing?

‘Where do you fellowship, brother?’ a twinkly, heavily-bearded middle aged man asks a young man sitting in a coffeehouse, wearing a tallit [Jewish prayer scarf] and studying a Hebrew interlinear Old Testament. Without waiting for a response, ‘Tallit is rabbinical; I follow only Torah.’ Then, as the young man begins to respond, and giving some testimony of his life in Christ, the other continues to promote his ‘messianic synagogue’ and boasts of ‘following the commandments’ because Y’shua [Jesus] was a Torah observant Jew. Then he goes on to say that living your life as ‘a living sacrifice’ is impossible unless you know and understand the book of Vayikra [Leviticus] and what sacrifice is all about.

My mind is trailing off into silence and my eyes glazing over, while I wait for this blast of hot wind to pass. Ah, but his wife is a real Jew, who teaches Hebrew, and who was saved and is now a tongue-speaking, born-again believer in Mashiach. ‘Good,’ I mutter softly and nod, while I half-listen patiently. Finally—I knew it was coming—the business card. After all, he’s on his Father’s business. He knows his lines well, though his Hebrew knowledge is spotty at best, enough to corral the biblically illiterate whom he usually meets here.

So why don’t they come to church and be Christians? What’s wrong with the people of the world? We’ve certainly given them enough time and plenty of free literature and televangelism to round them up. Don’t they feel welcome? We say on our church marquees, ‘Everyone welcome.’ Look, we even have a prayer request box in the parking lot, if somebody needs to be prayed for. What more can they want? They don’t even have to tithe, at least not at first. After all, ‘the church doesn’t need’ our money, ‘we need to give it.’ As they say, ‘You can't outgive God!’ And as for expecting miracles, like living a transformed life, well, don't worry… that’ll gradually happen. All they have to do is hang out with us, and they’ll be infected with Christianity. It’ll just rub off on them. See, we’ve made the way to God absolutely appealing, fun and easy. Got nothing to do, no where to hang out? Don’t worry! You can volunteer in one of our great ministry opportunities. What? What did you say? What do you mean ‘What does all this have to do with Jesus?’ Why, it has everything to do with Him! After all, Christ is all things, and in all things, especially at our church! Don’t worry, we’ll put you to work… I mean, we’ll give you plenty of opportunities for Christian growth.
And remember, ‘grow where you’re planted!’
We love you, and Jesus does too!

Christ, our God, have mercy on us!

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