Christ’s love is a wonderful, mysterious thing. I’ve been reading Mark Driscoll’s Vintage Jesus lately and so far, it’s alright. But my problem with it is its coerciveness. Perhaps this is Driscoll’s tone of talking about Jesus in particular, but I think this sentiment is much broader than just him or Mars Hill. It has echoes of the fire-and-brimstone attitude (“believe this way and only this way or burn in hell”), but not quite as extreme. What I don’t think we realize is that how we’re presenting the Gospel can actually work against the Gospel.
I’ve written about this plenty of times before, like when I’ve talked about the Westboro Baptist Church or the street preachers. It’s the general idea of sharing a gospel of love in an unloving manner. When it comes to sharing Jesus, we tend to force Him on other people either by citing a bunch of Bible passages or by debunking all the other religions. Oftentimes, though, I think people just want genuine love.
If you really think about it, that’s what Jesus wants from us: our genuineness. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” – John 13:35. You see, religion – doesn’t matter which branch – is formulaic. It says if you do a, b, and c, then you’ll get x or whatever the reward may be. Much of the time I think this is how Christianity represents itself in society; if you believe in the Bible, throw the other religions under the bus at any chance you get (like associate that religion with all terrorists), and then “dedicate your life to God,” then He’ll bless you. You’ll get the spouse, house, and car and be comfortable for the rest of your life. And when you get to heaven, it’s like the perfect retirement plan and nothing more.
But true Christianity says something different. It’s something a little more selfless, a little more humble, and much more uncomfortable. In fact, with True Christianity, God isn’t saying if you do a, b, and c you’ll be okay; He’s saying if you follow Him, you’ll be okay. But what that really means is you might lose everything. In fact, you’re supposed to.
Why am I talking about this again? Well, because I’m tired of reading books like Driscoll’s that depict Christianity as something you need to argue for and defend as if God couldn’t defend Himself against the arguments of this world. Jesus said He wasn’t of this world, so why should He have to argue like us? Why should we submit ourselves to a bunch of debates about doctrines, theologies, and calling out the heretics when we believe goes beyond all those anyway? Paul did say that the world does not understand God’s wisdom in the first place (1 Corinthians 2).
No, what I don’t mean to say is that we should avoid any discussion about God’s wisdom altogether. That’s the opposite extreme. What I am saying, though, is that we must first seek to share the love that defines as Christ’s disciples and whenever theological discussions arise, seek to share the wisdom of God. Time after time after time God’s wisdom will beat and outwit any argument we could put forth. Case in point is Luke 20:22-26, where Jesus is questioned about taxes and He brilliantly answers, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” (v. 25). In our modern day religiosity I think this would mean, “Render the arguments to those who wish to argue, and to God the things that are His.”
I’ve spent too many of my days trying to argue a case for what I believe. But in the end of it all I keep coming back to what people really want: Something beyond this world. Intellectually we think, “Well, of course, Christ fits that need perfectly,” but then we mar it up by breaking it down into some kind of systematic theology or doctrinal statement stipulating that we are to share Christ’s love by arguing in favor of His existence, His divinity, and the Scriptures we read from. Don’t get me wrong; arguments are incredibly helpful in learning about God, the Scriptures, and Jesus. But in no way whatsoever are the arguments the central thing.
Two years ago I was still wrestling with several different arguments going on at the same time. Back then it was inerrancy and in many ways the arguments really haven’t changed. What has changed, though, is how I’ve handled them. Quite frankly, I don’t care if you’re an inerrantist or a non-inerrantist. I just care that you love Jesus and live it out. I just care that you aren’t a “Christian” for the sake of gain the approval of society, but instead live to love those deemed unlovable. I just care that when you see a homeless man or woman holding up a sign seeking some kind of help, you aren’t making excuses to hoard up your possessions. I just care that you live to emulate Jesus.
Doctrines, theologies, and formulas are great and helpful, but not so much when it comes to humanity. People don’t want another misleading system or another set of 5 steps to success. People want to be loved. Wouldn’t it be great if we, the body of Christ, shared this love? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we, by our words and deeds, pointed people to the cross – the epitome of God’s love?