Sunday, May 5, 2013

All I'm Saying Is...

This post originally appeared on March 1, 2011.  I share it again today because it became clear to me this week that while the players may have changed, the game (unfortunately) has not...

My wife Marilyn is a wonderfully patient and understanding woman- she has to be to put up with me.  She is warm-hearted and open minded, willing to discuss most any subject and always ready to listen.  Still, Will and I know that there are limits, and there are times when she does dig in her heels.  We know that we have reached such a point in any discussion when she begins a sentence with the phrase, "All I'm saying is..."  At that point you know there is nothing you can say that will change her mind.  And it's best to just quit talking.

Lately I've read a great deal about the differences Christians have with each other.  I've watched on Twitter these past few days as supporters of two popular church leaders aired all of their dirty laundry for the world to see.  This is not the kind of Jesus Revolution I have been praying for.  So much of what divides the church comes from our unwillingness to admit that there are things we do not know about our faith.  We forget that most of what we argue about are the opinions of people, not the Word of God.  After a lot of thought and prayer, I have reached an "all I have to say is" moment.  And here it is- Everything Jesus said is more significant to our faith than anything anyone else says about Jesus.  I'm certain it is not a new concept.  But it is certainly not being practiced by very many church leaders, who seem to see their words as the final authority.  To illustrate, let me try a parable...

Three men gathered to discuss the most important aspect of our faith.  A seminary professor went first.  "The only thing that matters is theology.  Without a strong systematic theology faith will wither.  Your understanding of things like sanctification, justification, the rapture, hell and the virgin birth determine who you are in the eyes of God.  Without an orthodox theology learned from the great masters of the faith, you will never reach Heaven.  With education comes grace.  Theology is the key."

The second man to speak was a pastor"The only thing that matters is worship.  Gathering with God's people to sing praise (as long as the songs are from the "correct" hymnal), sharing in prayer time, tithing and listening the the wisdom of the preacher are the things that connect us to Jesus.  Partaking in the sacraments such as communion (just juice, and no wafers please) and baptism ( of children; dunking only) brings us together as the body.  Without a well-planned and highly structured worship service, there can be no true connection to God.  Jesus is found in worship."

The final speaker was an activist"The only thing that matters is changing the world.  Without a good cause to work towards, faith becomes worthless and weak.  Whether you work for peace or to end hunger, to stop abortion or to end discrimination, every Christian needs a cause.  And a strong political stance is good too, because that gets you on the 11 o'clock news.  If you do not take a stand on the important issues of the day (as decided by your church leaders), then you fall short as a believer.  And if your attitude actually serves to drive people away from Jesus, then they just don't get it."

All 3 of the men spoke with passion and had valid points.  But...Jesus said, "I AM the way, the truth and the life.  Come follow me."  That's it.  No choices, no dilemmas and no complications.  No theological system, magic sermons or political causes are needed.  We Christians muddle everything by making it about us.  We think we have something important to add to the words of the Christ, thinking that we can somehow explain what Jesus meant better than he did.  We twist his words (or ignore them) to match our belief systems and theologies.  But whether it is me, your pastor, Billy Graham or Rick Warren doing the talking, everything Jesus said is more significant than anything we have to say about it.  What if we really tried taking his teachings literally?  Take a look at The Beatitudes in Matthew 5.  If we simply followed those teachings at face value we would turn this world upside down!   I want to be like the first Quaker, George Fox, who struggled mightily with the teachings of the Church of England until the day he truly encountered the living Christ.  He wrote in his journal that he realized then the greatest theology of all:  "There is one, even Christ Jesus, who can speak to my condition.  And my heart did jump for joy."   I want to be like John Wesley, who encountered Christ on a ship and found his heart "strangely warmed."  Jesus does not want to merely be my savior; He also longs to be LORD of my life.  I was not saved simply to avoid hell.  We are called (John 10:10) to live life with Jesus in the here and now- and to live it abundantly!  That's the Jesus Revolution- realizing that our man-made systems and traditions, while useful,  carry no weight at all when held in the light of the Gospel.  Keep your religion and give me Jesus.  You may disagree and find me too radical or too simplistic.  Well you know what?    All I'm saying is...it's all about Jesus.  End of story.

Because of Jesus,

12 comments:

  1. AMEN, CARL! Well said, friend. Timely, too. Thank you for the word.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the love, Jason and Jeanette!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow...great post. Thanks for the reminder!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for reading Benjer, and also for the kind words. I enjoyed checking out your blog as well!

    ReplyDelete
  5. you always know when you are hearing a truth cuz you always feel so darn uncomfortable!!! Well said.Followed your blog from Twitter by the way.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great post, better point! Jesus is the point, and we need to stop bickering with each other about the little things and start living like Him

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you so much for the encouragement, Mary Jo and Chris. I have spent way too much time in my life haggling over the details of Christianity and missing the point. It's all about Jesus!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anonymous3/01/2011

    If this was the message put forward by the average church, they would all be full. People are sick of watching Christians fight with each other over stupid things. Thank you for another reminder that it's all about Jesus!
    - Abby Stetson via Twitter

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great post Carl! Well said. It is all about Christ Jesus as our Lord and Saviour....

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks for the kind words Abby. And Gay Lynn, it is always so nice to hear from people who really know me and read along anyway! :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Really love this. People need to stop compicating Christianity with fads and gimmicks and just get back to the basics.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for reading,and thanks for your comment!