Monday, April 28, 2014

Beware the Counterfeit Jesus

Being the vain middle-aged woman that I am, I hate to tell my age, but it's germane to the discussion we're about to have, so here it is: I am forty-four. 

I came to know Jesus, "prayed the prayer", as it were, at the ripe old age of four. For forty years I have walked this walk of faith, sometimes so well it has surprised even me, but more often, humiliatingly badly. I have learned much over the years and questioned more. 

And I have watched the American evangelical church ride waves and stretch and shrink and grow and fight amongst ourselves over the years, as well. 

Recently, the front man for the Christian band Jars of Clay made headlines for a series of tweets he made in support of gay marriage. I wasn't too surprised or disturbed by what he had to say until I read this one: 
Because most people read and interpret scripture wrong. I don't think scripture "clearly" states much of anything regarding morality.

He is not alone.

That Scripture is unclear or easily misinterpreted or that it is simply allegorical and poetic and not really meant to be a basis for our lives is a theme that I've seen over and over recently. Sadly, it seems to be Christians that are leading this charge. 

Some friends and I were discussing it and I struggled to find the words to convey why I think this is and finally responded.

I think it is the backlash of years of morality-based Christianity from American evangelicalism. We put morality on the throne instead of Jesus. We insisted that being good could save us. We not only insisted it could save us, we became convinced it could save America, as well. We picked through Scriptures and highlighted only those that supported our legalistic doctrines. 

We ignored grace and made God's passionate and unfathomable love for us conditional. Because we couldn't receive love, we didn't give it away and thus ignored the two-thousand-plus verses regarding the poor and oppressed. We made ourselves safe, comfortable, little lives in which we cry persecution when someone says, "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." 

People aren't buying what we're selling anymore. Morality-based gospel is finally crumbling and Jesus has been let out of the box. 

Morality-based, legalistic gospel was no gospel at all. I'm thrilled to see it fall. I've been telling broken people, myself included, "God is more interested in your heart than He is your behavior," for years. My heart wells up to see my fellow believers ministering to the poor, standing up against injustice (some of which have been caused by the church), and fighting for the least of these. 

These are good, exciting, and biblically based things. 

The backlash of morality-based gospel, however, is that people swing wide of center.

Instead of searching Scripture to see how it was misapplied, they throw out Scripture altogether and denounce its truth and relevance. 

Counterfeit Jesus, who was only interested in your behavior, was replaced with another counterfeit, as no one took the time to know the real one and put up a watered-down version, instead. 

Nothing was allowed, so now nothing is denied. 

No one was really loved, so now everyone's behavior, ideals, and opinions are embraced as truth in the name of love.   

We did this. 

And it's a hot mess.

We can't replace one counterfeit gospel for another. We can't replace the Word of Truth with passionate feelings. We can't replace the King with a cause. We can't replace real love with mere tolerance. 

When we swing wide of center, we are left holding a lie. 

And people get hurt. 

We need Jesus and we need His Word. We are imperfect people and we are going to get it wrong sometimes. But that doesn't mean we don't try. In my forty years on this faith walk I have learned this:

I am more apt to get it right with His Word than I am without it. 

I humbly admit to resting on my laurels without rightly dividing the Word of Truth in recent months. Years of baptist primary school insured that I have lots of Scripture memorized; living with my pastor father and a year of Bible college added to that. I sat back and relied on memory but I forgot that Scripture is a living Word meant to be a daily diet. 

But no more. I hereby declare that I will not allow social media to tell me what my Jesus stood for or what my Bible says. I'll be getting to know Him more and studying the red words closely. I don't want to get swept up in a shiny counterfeit. 

Will you join me?

1 comment:

  1. Tara, this is great. So true. I am 49 (almost 50) and I struggle with people saying the old way of Christianity is the right way. I wouldn't trade the 60's, 70's and 80's for any of what I see today, because although there are many be swept away by lies, there are so many more who are truly living the life that God commanded. Love him, love others. Thanks for sharing.