Tuesday, May 13, 2014

#DangerDays: Let It Go

Unless you have been living under a rock...and I mean a REALLY BIG ROCK...then you are aware of the hit Disney movie Frozen. If you know families with small children, then you also know that most of the world's kids have memorized the Oscar winning song Let It Go. The song is everywhere. Parents run headlong into the #DangerDays when they try to take the Frozen soundtrack out of the car CD player. Fortunately, it is a great song, especially as sung by the incomparable Idina Menzel (or as John Travolta calls her, Adele Dazeem). The song is all about being yourself, about letting go of the things you have always pretended to be and allowing your true gifts shine through. The song has a powerful message about self-esteem and grace. If for some reason you are not familiar with it, here's my personal favorite version...

Frozen is great. But as the great Arlo Guthrie says halfway through his 20 minute opus Alice's Restaurant, "that's not what I came here to talk about." I want to talk about our identity as Christians.

For many years one of my pet peeves about Christianity has been the ways we identify ourselves in this world. For instance, we often identity ourselves by our denominational affiliations. Think about it. How many times when someone asks you "what religion are you?" do you respond by saying Baptist, Methodist, Catholic or Unified Church of the Peons? I have asked that question quite often in my life and gotten a wide variety of answers, but the number of times that answer has been "Christian" is remarkably small. It seems to feel safer to most Christ-followers to share the tradition they are part of over the Radical Man who started it all. And by using the standards and practices of these small sects, it is far easier to keep out the riff-raff who are not worthy of being part of our churches. Seriously- there are more people than you think who think that way.

Another way we often identify ourselves is by listing the things we are against. We are against gays, against war, against abortion, against wearing white after Labor Day and against anyone who doesn't agree with our point of view on any of those sorts of issues. We boycotted over the suspension of a character from Duck Dynasty, for Pete's sake!  These battles - the Culture Wars - have become one of the single biggest identifiers we have to those outside of our walls. Patriotism and political party alliances have as well- which is fine unless those things are pre-requisites for admission to our Jesus Club. For years now many Christians have been much happier to identify themselves by the labels they wear, the lists of rules they follow and the issues they fight rather than by their affiliation to Jesus. I mean after all- that Jesus dude was kind of a wild hair, wasn't he? Taking him literally about all of the loving stuff could get you in big trouble...

But recently...very recently...I have felt a new hope for the Body of Christ in USAmerica. Pope Francis gives me hope. By his words and deeds he has demonstrated a clear understanding that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing- and that the main thing for the Church is the love of God whose name is Jesus. I firmly believe he would identify himself as a Christian who happens to be Catholic, not the other way around. I feel the same way about the Bishop of the United Methodist Church here in Florida. Ken Carter is opening doors and encouraging churches to love their communities in a language that is clearly recognizable as that of the Christ. Ken is a dyed-in-the-wool Methodist. But he is a Christ-follower first. On Twitter, I read more and more of my brothers and sisters in Christ understanding that we have been majoring in the minors for too long, and that it is time to turn back to actually following Jesus himself instead of  worshiping those who write and preach about him. He is where we find our identity. He told us 2000+ years ago that the world will know we are his disciples by the way we LOVE. We've been too busy trying to prove we are "nicer" and more morally upright to have time to show the world that kind of radical, overwhelming, unconditional love. But the tide is turning!

However...finding your identity in Jesus means walking straight into the #DangerDays. Loving the hurting, the lost and the seemingly unlovable is very scary stuff. We are used to praying, "God I want to serve you by starting a new ministry at the beach" and feeling like we are open to God's leadings. Jesus says FOLLOW ME, which turns our prayers into "here I am LORD; send me!" We are used to excluding people to "keep our churches safe and pure," when Jesus (and the 5 Man Electrical Band!) says "everybody's welcome, come on in, kneel down and pray!" Following the Christ means being a servant, not a leader. It means making people more important than possessions or ideals. It means losing our lives so that in him we can find them. And that scares the crap out of us.

Is your identity as a Christian wrapped up in things other than Jesus? Then let it go! Just like in the song, dropping all of the pretense of "acting Christian" and really finding your identity in Christ will freak people out, make them nervous and leave you stepping into the #DangerDays in a whole new way. When you love like Jesus taught us to love there will be people who simply do not understand. When you turn your back on the normal and find your identity in Jesus, you may feel rejection from doubters and Pharisees- but so often Christ comes to us in the storm. Even fellow Christians may act like you have lost your mind and give you the cold shoulder. But when your life is defined by the Risen Savior, you can "let the storm rage on...cold never bothered me anyway!" For me, there is only one identifying factor for Christians- they will know us by our love. All that other stuff? Let it go...

Because of Jesus,

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5/13/2014

    Come on Carl...tell us what you really think! Love the line about not worshiping those who write and preach, but going straight to Jesus! Great stuff buddy! ~Chris Cooper


Thanks for reading,and thanks for your comment!