For those who read here, I hope you haven’t minded that the past several posts have been my rehashing and fleshing out the latest sermons from church! I’ve just found the content really fascinating lately, more so than usual, and I can’t seem to stop thinking about it through the week.
This past Sunday’s sermon was a continuation of Pastor Trevor’s “Better” series. He’s focusing on how the general public view of Christianity and religion as a way of life has changed in the past few decades. He explained how up until the fifties and early sixties, over 95% of Americans would have classified themselves as being Christian or having a belief in God, a way of living “religiously”. Even people who would not self-identify as Christian still had beliefs in a Higher Power, in a being “out there” who was greater than themselves and in control of things here on earth.
He brought up how much that has changed in the past twenty years especially. He talked about the similarity of our current culture that seems to be burnt out on religion as a whole and Christianity specifically to the culture that Jesus stepped into when He began His ministry. A statistic he quoted says that most people today say they feel their lives are better without any sort of religion.
Wow. That’s a huge departure from the days just before my own appearance on this planet. I was born in the late sixties and grew up feeling as if most of the kids I went to school with knew about God and believed in Him. It was fairly common that if you used the Bible to support your view of something, it would more often be accepted as truth than not. If you decided to pray over your meal, others around you would respect that by not interrupting or by turning their conversational volume down a bit while you prayed.
Nowadays, of course, the Bible is almost automatically questioned or outright dismissed as any reputable presentation of truth. I will interject here that back in the time I refer to in the previous paragraph there were also a good amount of folks who would just as soon thump you with the Bible as read it to you. At least the little I can recall of those years as a young child, people weren’t all that subtle about their religiosity or their beliefs. It was expected that you believed in the Bible and if you didn’t you were labeled stupid or rebellious. EVEN if you had a legitimate question about what was being taught from scripture, if it went against the mainstream of whatever congregation you affiliated yourself with, you would be severely chastened if not completely dismissed or blackballed!
Those are not what I consider “the good old days”. I’m still recovering from those “old
days” and growing up in a church culture that was more exclusive than inclusive, more separatist than mediator. That required me to learn that others who grew up in that same kind of culture had the same unasked questions that I did! Being able to learn from those people, getting together to discuss those questions we weren’t allowed to ask and find the Biblical answers was healing to my wounded spirit. It turns out that a lot of the ways, things I was taught and beliefs held by what I consider old, traditional church is not exactly the way Jesus presented it. It had strayed into some unscriptural rule-making and expecting the outside world to understand what we on the inside of the church were talking about when they (the outside world, non-Christian) didn’t have any context… and then getting mad about it when they didn’t comprehend our “good news”.
All that to say this…yes, our society is changing. Probably not for the best in general, but there are other changes happening too. While there is plenty of moral decline in America and the world, there is also some renewed Godliness. Not spirituality or religiosity, but true Godliness where the Creator of All is revered as the Ultimate Authority and the love of Jesus is shown to those who in the past would have been rejected in and by a church.
Like I mentioned in my last post, the very first thing God ever did when He began to give men the words that would become our Bible was to present Himself as a creator. And as a creator, you must have a certain amount of love, passion, and joy in whatever it is you create. God took SO much time… well, OUR concept of time at least, so much CARE, I should say, to make everything unique and beautiful. Why would He do that for a world He did not love? Not to mention His loving us SO MUCH that instead of giving up on us, He gave up Jesus for us.
It’s been wonderful to learn more about scripture and be able to explain why, in my childhood and teen years I felt so discouraged by “the gospel” and my church. It’s also been hard to move past the teaching that was drilled into me about who was and who wasn’t “suitable” to come in the church… who wore the right kind of clothes for church, who sang the right kind of songs, played the right music or had the appropriate instruments on the stage. It’s been freeing to learn that just because you like a different kind of music than me doesn’t make yours any less worshipful than mine. God doesn’t care what we wear, but rather about the condition of our hearts. On the topic of clothing, which was a major sore spot in my home and my childhood church, when I’d hear people picking apart someone else’s wardrobe choice I often wondered why then was it not a factor when David tore off his outer clothes and danced for joy in his underwear? (2 Samuel 6 – Where it says David wore a linen ephod? That’s his underments made of thin linen cloth!!) And why was it not a hindrance for the repentant thief who hung next to Jesus that day?? All of them– he, the unrelenting thief and Jesus– eventually were naked in public! Why was it okay to say he was forgiven while he was indecent in public? And what about the other sinners Jesus ate and sat with? I’m sure many of them were inappropriately dressed… um, hello!! You know those “loose women” didn’t run home and throw on a “church dress” before they met Jesus .. especially since Jesus met people where they were! In their mess! In their hooker clothes!
Oops… sorry. I got off track a bit there. But you can see how those nagging questions can lead a person to reject the gospel when there is a contradiction between what scripture says and what a body of Christians do. I know and have heard testimony of many people who literally walked out on God because of the way they were treated by or how they saw others treated by people who said they represented Jesus.
That needs to stop! We as the body of Christ need to get back to the basics of Jesus’ teaching. The greatest commandments are these:
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”