Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Fruitfulness of Falling Back

"People aren't confused by the gospel. They're confused by us. Jesus is the only way to God, but we are not the only way to Jesus. This world does not need my tie, my hoodie, or my denomination of the bible. They just need Jesus. We can be passionate about what we believe, but we can't strap ourselves to the gospel because we're slowing it down. Jesus is going to save the world, but maybe the best thing we can do, is just get out of the way."

- Various voices
"What This World Needs"
From "The Altar And The Door" by Casting Crowns

"I want to be Your hands and feet/
I want to live a life that leads/
To see You set the captive free/
Until the whole world hears/
And I pray that they will see/
More of you and less of me/
Lord I want my life to be/
The song you sing"

- Casting Crown
"Until The Whole World Hears"

Peace and blessings,

Wow God is truly amazing! For the longest I have been grappling with a particular issue, and it seems like recently, I've received a level of clarity regarding the situation that I have never had before. This is not to say that I've "arrived" or "figured it out," because (1) there's always something I don't understand or need to learn regarding my faith and (2) I know better than to assume that my interpretation of anything i'm not clear about is the "best" one. With that said, here are my thoughts on the clarity I feel I have received recently, and how it contributes to both my understanding of my relationship with God and with others.

The development of my Christian faith (in particular from my undergraduate years until now) has been interesting, in that the more I learn about Jesus and what His life meant not just to me but to humanity as a whole, I also learn about how many injustices have been perpetrated by people in the name of Christianity. The more i'm drawn to Jesus' love and try to understand what it really means to live out this love, the more i'm bothered by those who perpetuate hate, also in the name of Christianity.

While in Cambridge, the pastor of the church I attended gave us a vivid illustration that summed up the life of a Christian. He referred to the structure of a cross, and how it consists of two simple lines (or sticks or whatever, lol). One is vertical and the other is horizontal. The vertical reflects our relationship with God, and the horizontal reflects our relationship with others. Both relationships were important to Christ, with His relationship to God being first and foremost (of course Jesus had a lightweight "unfair" advantage given the whole 100% man and 100% God thing, lol). For us who follow Christ, we are also called to both relationships, with the relationship to God coming first.

Since that message, I guess you could say that I've been paying more attention to how I am being obedient to God with regards to both of my relationships. I've realized that during the times when I'm "dropping the ball" with regards to the horizontal aspect (e.g., having that holier-than-thou/judgmental steez going on), it's because I've been having so much "tunnel-vision" with regards to the vertical relationship (i.e., what would God say about this person or behavior), that I'm missing the big picture. Interestingly, my behavior during these times resembles those of the pharisees during the time of Jesus' life (although I'm not generalizing and assume that all pharisees were resistant to Jesus' teachings). Appropriately enough, for now on I remind myself to make sure I don't approach a particular issue or situation with a "pharisee" mindset but with the mind and heart of Christ.

Enter Casting Crowns. Through these quotes, I believe that God has showed me how and why many people either dislike Christianity, don't trust it, or don't have the time for it. When looking throughout the course of history, mass killings and slavery have been perpetuated in the name of Christianity. Currently, there are Christian groups who are either extremely judgmental, show hate to those they should be loving, or both. My experiences (first and second hand) have provided evidence for the notion that people are not so much resistant to Jesus as they are to people who do certain "un_Christ-like" things in the name of Christianity. In these quotes, Casting Crowns (and this is a huge theme throughout their music) is stressing the importance of "falling back" so people can move toward Christ. In other words, I'm becoming more convinced that the reason why many non-Christ-like things have been perpetrated in the name of Christianity is because we show more of ourselves and less of Christ. Although we belong to Christ, we are still human, and therefore we have to constantly keep certain tendencies in check, as they can not only minimize the effectiveness of Christ in us, but also can result in us treating people unfairly, turning them away from Christ as opposed to pointing them towards Christ.

When real change happens, when the gospel is spread and Jesus' love is made manifest, I have noticed that it is during the times when I fall back and let Jesus be Jesus. Sometimes I want to "steer the ship" so to speak and during these times it's like i'm literally telling Jesus "chill JC, I got this one" or "let me handle this." We need to first fall back so Jesus can use us how He see fits, not the other way around. The more we humble ourselves and fall back, the more Jesus guides us in our interactions with and love for others. It is then that we as followers of Christ are truly living out our purpose in life, which is summed up in the Ten Commandments, and is the overall theme of the bible: To love God and to love others.

What do you think? Take care, stay blessed, and speekonit...


Wendy H. said...

Great article. Carl Ellis in his book _Free at Last_ talks about how MLK challenged the American Christian church to not just care about epistemology (what we know about God) but also ethics (how we obey God). The second, ethics, reminds me of the horizontal line on the cross, how we treat people because of our relationship with God. Well said, Justin. May we all "fall back".

Thoughtz25 said...

Thanks Wendy, much appreciated!

Leandrew said...

Definitely powerful. I agree. This is great reminder to not contaminate God's work through us, by doing too much.

Thoughtz25 said...

Thanks for hitting up the blog and for your feedback. Much appreciated!

Unknown said...

Yeah very interesting, I feel like I have been having this same realization in my faith. It has caused me to be more open to people. I still struggle with looking only at their sin and not the person... this is going to be an even bigger issue in the years to come with homosexuality in the church. I think God is trying to show me something.... :)

Thoughtz25 said...

Yeah I hear you Mel. I really think this is a central issue was the body of Christ need to "get right" in order to remain relevant. Thanks for taking the time to read it.

TruEngineer said...

I'm with you man! I'll do my part to 'fall back'. Good stuff!

Thoughtz25 said...

lol thanks for the support sir!

queentemi said...

You speak Truth, Big Bro. Some of the things you wrote about reminds of the book we're currently reading for Stephen Ministry. It is entitled "Jesus and the Disinherited".

We all need to fall back, so Jesus can do his thing. Not just in other lives, but in our lives as well. How many times have we stopped God from doing what he wants to do in our lives, because we were trying to handle it. lol.

Good word, Bro!

Thoughtz25 said...

Yeah that's real sis. I wasn't even thinking about the "our lives" piece!

Shanessence said...

Thanks for sharing, Justin! Your words are so apt during this time when people are questioning their faith and those who don't believe question Christianity's validity due to the way its enacted by certain individuals. At a time when American is more anti-religious and less Christian than it has ever been, believers need to be circumspect and aware of how their actions affect others.

Thoughtz25 said...

Yeah, we definitely need to be aware of what we say (don't say) and do (or don't do). Thanks for the support!

Unknown said...

Justin, I think what you've experienced is something common to those who are growing in their faith and study of the gospels. This sort of "Christian repulsion" is what helped to keep God at arm's length for me for decades and even now attacks the foundation of my faith every now and then. It's good every now and then to know there are others that feel the same way you do and that there are answers out there to this question.

R.J. Luedke

Thoughtz25 said...

Mr. Luedke,

Thanks for the feedback. It felt good to get it off my chest, and to know I serve a God that understands my frustration/struggles.