Once upon a time, reading the Gospels I saw Jesus in a new and powerful way. He was no longer a storybook character in a cradle or on a cross. He became a real life example of how to live and move and have my being. Jesus, I still love him as much as the day I discovered him. The American Christian church, not so much.
Unlike some loud mouth pundits or armchair theologians I would not dare suggest that “The Church” the wonderful and powerful Bride of Christ is an embarrassment. On the contrary , I am proud to be counted among the called, the chosen, the free indeed.
But this racially-segregated, politically-charged, rhetoric machine has gotten on all 100 trillion of my nerves. Sometimes when people realize I’m Christian they cringe as if I’m going to hit them in the face with a Bible. Sometimes I’m embarrassed when people are surprised that I’m a Christian because I’m so “down to earth and normal.” People I love dearly are afraid to disclose certain aspects of their lives because they are concerned I’m “too Christian” and won’t understand. Last Thanksgiving, my seventeen year old niece and I had a huge blowout because she believes Christianity breeds hate. The time I spend explaining American church antics would be better spent telling people about Jesus.
Sometimes I feel like I’m going to become the Stephen A. Smith of evangelism. “JUST SHUT UP AND ACT LIKE JESUS!”
Maybe WWJD is where we got off track. That phrase, “What would Jesus do?” suggests that we need to think about what Jesus would do in a situation. No. We know what Jesus did. You don’t need to think about it or pontificate. There’s no need to develop a doctrine more aligned with your views and interpretations of the scriptures. Just do what The Man did. It’s right there in the Bible.
Jesus gave an answer, a solution, to make life a bit easier to interpret. In Mark 12 (and Matthew 22) Jesus tell us that the most important thing to do is love. We must love God and if we claim to do so then we must love others– everybody–period. There are no exclusions. Sure, the practicality of life requires us to manage deficits, enforce laws, and be mindful of our resources. Christians must do these aligned with our faith not our side of the aisle.
All over the world, devoted Christians risk their lives to read Bibles and gather together in worship. In America, we go to our racially segregated corners on Sunday morning. Clap on beat (or off) and head to brunch. “Okay, see you next week Jesus.” Meanwhile, souls are broken and fading smiles can no longer hide the pain. This pain that has now manifested in skyrocketing teen suicide, mass shootings, deadly addictions, and an overall ill regard for the precious gift of life.
American Christian church, this is not “the world’s” fault. The state of America is our fault. We’ve spent too much time trying to stop same sex marriage, keep tax cuts for our church parking spaces, and off-shoot into our own star-studded ministries and personal missions. We zoom back and forth between the crib and The Cross — Jesus was born. Jesus died for you. That’s all folks.
The life of Jesus tells us how we should live. Those three years of ministry are our life guide. Do you really think Jesus would be okay with what’s going on right now? No! He wasn’t okay with the status quo back then. I seriously doubt he’d be down with it now. Jesus cared about what mattered most…the hearts and souls of people.
Team Jesus still has plenty of cap space. “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matt 9:37 NLT). Sure, there is a lot of activity in the kingdom — praying, dancing, writing, singing, and tons and tons of conference speaking… oh for a thousand tongues… with no impact beyond our selfish agendas. Meanwhile, powerfully effective people are making an impact on the world’s poor and hurting and do so without saying much at all. They may not profess Christianity but they act like true Christians are supposed to act. When you read Matthew 25 (v.31-46) the “righteous” people who fed the king when he was hungry, gave him a drink when he was thirsty, and visited him in prison didn’t even realize they had helped him. Why? Jesus responds, because “what you did for the least of these you did to me.”
Pause and consider. Sometimes “good” people behave more like Christians than Christians do. *Gulp
I pray that the Holy Spirit grace me, like Paul, to do what Jesus did. I pray to live a life of love. I pray to really focus on what matters eternally and to stop worrying about frivolities that don’t impact the hearts, minds, and souls of people. I may never make a billion dollars and my name may never be in lights. Even so, I’d ask you to join me on this journey where we don’t simply consider what Jesus would do, but actually do what Jesus did do. Love Everybody. Period.