“Hey: let’s have room in our heart for people who are “behind” or stuck or struggling or messed up. Not everyone is paced at your tempo. Not everyone can just change at the drop of a hat. Please do not judge what doesn’t make sense in your eight lb. brain. It might be something you’d never struggle with, but this other human being DOES, and you don’t have to understand to love them. Just love them. Do not coerce a therapeutic ideology that rushes someone into an idealistic mirage. This will kill them. I get this wrong too, and I regret every moment I’ve dragged a friend into a forced epiphany. Be patient, be there, be engaged, and be at ground level.”—J.S.
Christians: Why So Serious?
I meet Christians who are stiff, twitchy, restrained, and really dang hard on themselves for offending the very serious things of God — and while I admire their passion, I can hardly stand to be around them.
They have to spiritualize everything and tend to measure other people on some kind of biblical-b.s. meter.
On the other hand, I meet these relaxed feet-on-the-desk guys that presume they really understand God’s grace and the church is all religious condemnation and any kind of rebuke is like a guilt-trip, man — and while I feel more free around them, I get overly cynical and snarky around them too.
They sort of turn their nose up at hard doctrine and church culture and anyone who doesn’t do it like they do, and they tend to measure people on the same exact b.s. meter.
I’ve seen guys who preach sin and Hell and spiritual warfare, but behind closed doors they are the nicest guys in the world. I’ve seen guys who preach grace and anti-guilt and love-everyone, but behind closed doors they are complete a-holes. And vice versa.
I don’t mean to be so crude: but what the heck is going on here?
I’m seeing that jumping to either extreme on the reactionary Christian bandwagon is too easy. Being “convicted” and “wrecked” all the time is too easy. Being cynical of church culture is too easy. Saying that we can “abuse grace” and “God is holy wrath” is too easy. Saying “you better not come at me with that guilt-fear-shame” is too easy.
You know what’s hard?
A balanced, thoughtful, nuanced, self-examining faith.
One that emerges from an increasingly accurate picture of God’s love AND God’s holiness.
One in which grace is both our rest AND resolve, in which God’s love is both our safe haven and our motivation.
What’s hard is to cultivate a faith that has room for sinners like you and me, for hypocrites who don’t get it yet, for bloggers who disagree with us, for Christians who love Jesus even if they differ on the way they do church, and for Pharisees and liberals and everyone in-between and beyond.
Really it comes down to: We must take God very seriously, but we don’t take ourselves so seriously.
I mean do Christians really have to be so grave, somber, and dramatic all the time? It’s okay to be happy, you know. If you have Jesus and you’re less happy, then that’s because of you and not Jesus.
And do Christians have to be so anti-religious all the time? It’s okay to have some tradition, you know. If you have Jesus and you’re that cynical hipster anti-church guy, I just can’t take you seriously.
Look: If your version of Christianity makes you feel less free and less joyful and more stressed and you have clenched up butt cheeks whenever someone at your church cusses or smokes or walks in late, then your Christianity is making you worse.
If your version of Christianity makes you hate Pharisees and badmouth the local church and turn your nose up at intellectual sermons and lets you “sin sometimes” to look cool and you mock every Christian subculture to appear relevant, then your Christianity is making you a jerk.
Mainly, none of these extremes have to do with the heart of our Father. They’re not about intimacy with God. They’re about waving a flag.
If anything we do is getting us away from God, we better dang well blast it out of the equation. If God is who He says He is, then I hope we’d rely on Him to do whatever possible to bring us closer to Him: and that means blowing up our categorical thinking and letting God renew our mind with a bigger vision.
God means for you to know Him and obey Him. One can’t go without the other. Both lead to joy and to growth. Let’s be thoughtful.
I’m starting to find that everyone’s Christian faith is utterly, uniquely different. Not so different on loving Jesus and loving people — but the way we wrestle through doctrine by strict academia or by poetic reflection, how we sing at the top of our lungs or in quiet osmosis, how some of us pray at sunrise in a pew or at three a.m. on a beach, how some of us are dying to journal or would rather die than journal, how our political tensions clash so broadly and brutally, how one forgives so quickly and the other is bitter indefinitely, how some of us are strong in faith or we’re faith-weaklings, how we each hold onto quirks like Bible translations and worship genres and preaching styles, how we like to gather in crowds of thousands or a group of a dozen.
There’s no need to fight over these things. No need to accuse another of being wrong, or to try to be better than the ‘other’ church, or to recast the same mold. We are so many shades of an endless jewel, a glorious community of unified diversity fueled by the endless imagination of God. I hope we don’t dash ourselves on our personalities. There is room for you and for me in this Body.