Normal Christianity is Weird
If you talk to new comers to Christianity, you have to admit with them that Christians do some weird things. Jon Acuff has made us all laugh as he has chronicled these with his Stuff Christians Like blog and book. But it seems that normal and weird change over time and what is normal to us would probably look weird to a New Testament Christian church.
Thinking of conversations I’ve had with “normal” Christians over the last ten years along with assessing my own views, here’s what it appears NORMAL has come to look like for Christianity in America:
- It’s about me and my comfort. How can we read the New Testament and come away with statements like, “My Church doesn’t meet my needs” or “I’m just not getting fed.” The New Testament compels us to a faith filled with personal sacrifice, going deep with God, and others centered living (Philippians 2:3-4, Colossians 3:1-2). Jesus said what comes out of our mouth is in our hearts. Are your words saying, “It’s all about me” in relation to your Christian faith?
- Jesus informs my decisions. The bumper sticker is true for Western Christians, “Jesus is my Co-Pilot.” And we’ll refer to him if needed, but otherwise, I’ve got it under control for now. Instead of knowing Jesus as Lord, who directs and guides, commands and leads, we know him as one option on our reference shelf for life’s directions.
- Intention = Actions. Intentions matter a lot to us. And the right intentions are important, but intentions deceive us into thinking we’re something we’re not. The New Testament test of faith is action (Matthew 12:15, Ephesians 2:10, James 2:14-17). Not in order to get God’s favor, but that shows we have God’s favor. What’s inside will come out if it’s real. Just like the plants in my garden. They will tell me the label on the pack of seeds was correct when they bear their fruit.
- Karma – I must be ok with God if everything is going so well. I’ve got a nice job with a raise coming this year, great house, my kids are doing well in sports, so God must be pleased with me. This is believing that we’re saved by the American dream instead of by Christ. And the god of nice job, nice house, upwardly mobile kids will eventually betray us. Our need for God is not based upon how well things are going, it’s based upon the universal need for an answer to our sin problem. This attitude is essentially animism. In the jungles of south Mexico when things go wrong, they make sacrifices to appease the gods. In America, when things go wrong, we get the family to church for a few weeks in a row.
- Fellowship = friendship with people like me. As a church planter I know the reality of the leadership law, “You attract who you are, not who you want.” But I also know the great need for us to take the gospel to people, cultures, parts of town, not like us. One of the miracles of early Christianity that we miss in our homogeneous culture is that racial, social, economic, cultural, religious boundaries were destroyed by the power of the Gospel. Even among Jesus’ disciples was a tax collector who was seen as an enemy of Israel and a Jewish zealot who would have been committed to oppose him with terrorist like tactics. Roman soldiers and Jewish rabbis would have been together around the communion table. The gospel leads us into a dismissal of us vs. them. We see that in Christ, it’s just us.
- You can change. Jesus might can help with that. Pop psychology says, “You can change, let’s talk tactics and possible options.” Unfortunately, sounds like some sermons I’ve preached and heard. The power of the gospel for salvation (Romans 1:16-17) has become one of many tactics or plans to get to the good life as the American dream defines it.
- I’m ok if I keep most of the rules. “I’m a good person” or “My plus column is higher than my minus column” or “I go to church as often as I can.” Many are just grinning and bearing it as they check off a list of religious deeds on our way to a good time. Problem is, rules don’t have power to give life and rules don’t have power to give eternal life. Only a relationship with Christ does that. Jesus gave us a new rule: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” The rule is now, connect in relationship to Christ. And let Christ define normal for you.
What would you add to my list?
Tomorrow we’ll explore what NORMAL should look like, if we follow Christ.