A recent study revealed that about 78% of Americans consider themselves Christians. Mixed in with that number, in order, are Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Orthodox (both Greek and Russian) and then a line item that comes in at .3% that’s just called “other.” I wonder who those people are?
I know you probably know this, but not everyone who cries out “Lord, Lord” is actually a Christian. Where I live, there’s a little Baptist church pretty much on every corner, except for the corners with a CVS or a QT. But thinking about it, we can get pretty religious about our pharmaceutical and convenience store needs.
Think about it like this – why is the world so screwed up if all those people are actually followers of Jesus Christ? The best, easiest answer is, it wouldn’t be if they actually were.
I remember in high school, people who were in the running for Homecoming King would always have their bio read during a school-wide assembly, “Yes, he’s the greatest and he knows it! He loves the foosball, hang gliding, galivanting with all his foosball friends, and he’s a member of the [local Christian denomination left unnamed to protect the innocent].” Then all of us who were members of that church would look at each other, and say, “I’ve never once seen him there, how about you?”
I’m thinking back to something I read in Mark the other day. Jesus was beboppin’ around, hitting town after town, doing his thing – a few miracles, some sermons, he fed a few folks, told some stories, and then one day, around dinner time, some of the local preachers and church staffers came up to him and questioned him real good about his heathen, sinful ways.
You see, Jews believed you had to wash yourself in a particular way before eating, or you would be ceremonial unclean.
And now for three short vignettes:
When I was a kid, if you came to church with shorts on, you’d be shown the door. Didn’t matter if you were lost as a goose and had never been and the Holy Spirit himself drove you to the front door and said go in. Shorts were not allowed. Not at church, not at the church office, not at church camp, not on a church trip of any kind. KNEES WERE SINFUL DID YOU NOT KNOW THIS??
A few years back, I was a youth pastor. I met a great guy at a school event, invited him to come to church, and he showed up with a hat on. On a Wednesday night. In the youth building. I had so many people complain about that hat! I thought at first they were kidding, but no, they were dead serious and quoted me scripture that said people can’t wear hats to church. I asked one guy to go study I Corinthians 11, then instructed him to make sure his wife shaved her head before leading prayer before the Wednesday night church supper next time.
In another church we had a youth band. Kids were coming in from everywhere, getting saved, getting fired up, bringing friends, leading bible studies at school – and the catalyst for all that was the band. Sure as heck wasn’t a middle aged bald headed youth guy. Well, there was some praying, too. Anyway – a church member told me if I didn’t “unplug those evil drums and guitars” he would unplug them and they would stay unplugged forever. I think he meant to go all Keith Moon on them.
How many of you were told by your parents as a child, and to this day tell your children, to wash up before dinner? It’s all about the hygene, right? They could have some unknown sand box pathogen and end up on an episode of House.
How many of you are Jewish? Well, they’re the ones that started that. What we call hygene, Jesus called something else. In Mark 7 the religious leaders asked Jesus why he didn’t wash up before eating. He flat out called them hypocrites. Look it up. Wow, right? Way less than tactful, Jesus.
Thing is, he wasn’t there to placate the pastor of some crappy little church. He wasn’t there to uphold the traditional, or to make the religious people happy. He didn’t come to bring peace – he came with a sword. He came to cut his people free.
How can you know someone is who they say they are? Well, a doctor wears a white lab coat, a leopard has spots. Birds fly and bees be. Generally.
“Well, Christians read the bible and pray a lot, and go to church a lot. Sometimes they don’t eat for whatever reason, and some of them when they pray it’s not real words coming out of their mouth. And they have a bunch of bibles.”
There’s only one way to tell a Christian. Jesus said in John 13:34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”
When we can get over ourselves, get past our traditions, give up our hurts and our past, when we can actually love like Christ loved – sacrificially, unflinchingly, unapologetically, wholeheartedly, unconditionally, and without regard for personal safety – then everyone will know! There will be no doubt who and who’s we are.
How do you love? Like a regular person? With strings attached? You can love like that, but don’t call yourself a Christian if you do.