In my previous post a comment was added and asked “how do we portray those things (what Jesus taught and who he is) to people looking in…” This post is my answer (and if you don’t want to read it all skip to the last sentence).
Jesus did not save you because he loves you, but because he loves EVERYBODY!
Martin Luther (the German one) is credited with a giant breakthrough in the Reformation era… grace. The idea that God loves us and forgives us if only we show an apologetic heart. Fast-forward to today and evangelicals have taken this idea to an extreme; where the utterance of one simple prayer is enough to guarantee personal salvation for life. This extreme breeds an extremely sinful attitude.
An emphasis on personal salvation communicates to our subconscious the importance of me! One quote that I think illustrates this problem more than anything is from the movie Inception, Leonardo di Caprio’s character defines ideas in this way, “What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient… highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate.” While the idea of personal salvation is necessary for movement through our journey towards Kingdom life; it can take hold of our entire mindset and multiply into a dangerous and resilient parasite. One in which our entire being is consumed by the eternal preservation of me. This idea is in direct conflict of God’s plan for the eternal preservation of WE!
In The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis one idea that he emphasizes is that the best work that Satan does is not creating direct opposition to God, but in corrupting and twisting the Church body. Which is what the debate between “religion” and “relationship” has always been. Throughout the course of time Satan pushes the Church into a state of lawfulness, where the importance of religious PRACTICES outweighs that of attitudes and beliefs. (See this post for more on religion). Then when the Church body sees what is happening, Satan quickly moves to push the importance of ATTITUDES and BELIEFS to outweigh the practices. It is somewhat of a “Pendulum Effect” (that life tends to swing from one extreme to another).
I think we can all agree that a religion with emphasis on practices will lead to lawfulness and a works-based theology, but what does a religion with an emphasis on attitudes and beliefs lead to? I think we already know! It leads to a self-centered “relationship” that lacks the action to change anything at all.
James writes in chapter 1 verse 27 that PURE and FAULTLESS religion is “to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Both lawfulness and relationship are needed. To exclude one for the sake of the other is equally detrimental to our religion both within our personal lives and our institutional lives. We cannot turn our back on our Christian brothers and sisters simply because they prescribe to one part of the faith more heavily than we do.
All of you “relationship” oriented Christians must stand WITH your law-abiding brothers and sisters even when they cast judgement on you and your loved ones; and all you “lawful” Christians must stand WITH your emotionally driven brothers and sisters even when they smoke, get drunk, and walk in gay-pride parades. We must do this because it is what Jesus taught and desired. The unification of all followers; and not just all followers, but all people!
You were not saved because Jesus loved you, but because Jesus loves everybody.
So, in answering the question we must communicate who Jesus is and what he taught by living what he taught and acting as a body.