I think we’ve complicated things. Like the woman who packs 4 bags for a 5 day trip, we’ve added too much and made this too heavy to carry. She packs open-toed shoes, heels, walking shoes, flip-flops, running shoes and several colors to match a variety of outfits. She loads in a few outfits for warm days, cool days and cold days. There are casual clothes, lounging clothes, business casual and dressy outfits. It’s all good stuff but it just doesn’t fit in the car. She can’t carry it. You can’t carry it. Bellmen, cab drivers and baggage handlers give a groan when they see it coming. It’s just not necessary.
I think we’ve made the message of Christ too heavy to handle. We’ve taken it from simple to complex. It just doesn’t look to me like what Jesus intended when he said, “Come to me if you’re tired and weighed down and I will give you rest. Be about what I am about; I’m not going to go all crazy on you. I’m not about weighing you down.” (Mt. 11:28-30)
Maybe I’m simple-minded but when I read John 3:16-17, I see that God loved, God gave and we believe and it’s a done deal. I see that Jesus didn’t come because he’s ticked off and wants to point out how screwed up we are. He didn’t come to condemn but to rescue and give hope. (Listen to Andy Stanley: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/npm/~3/8DV1ypJml1E/part5.mp3 )
Can faith in Christ really be that simple? Yeah, it can.
But we keep adding things to the salvation bag. It works like this, “Saved people don’t ________. Saved people do ____________.” I bet you can fill in the blanks. There are a ton of things we add while claiming that we really do believe that you can’t earn salvation.
Saved people don’t drink, they don’t cuss, they don’t look at porn on their computers, they don’t laugh at dirty jokes, they don’t fight with their spouses, they don’t listen to pop music. Saved people are regular attenders at church, they give 10 percent of their income, vote republican …
The atmosphere we create demands that people hide their struggles or risk looking like they are not “saved.” I’ve spent the last 25 years working with teenagers in local churches. I think their biggest frustration is that their individual families at church are nothing like the families they are outside. They just don’t get it. They hate the act. They know life is messy.
“I was so tired of reading religious books and hearing religious speakers tell me how perfect they were, and I would end up hearing a sermon or reading a book or going to some religious meeting, and at the end of the meeting I felt worse than when I got there because they had it all together.” Mike Yaconelli on his book Messy Sprituality.
Me too, Mike. Me too.
I was riding my bike about a week ago trying to drop more pounds off this 270 pound mass. I was feeling good about myself. Hey, when I started riding in May I could barely handle riding a mile. Now I’m up to 60-70 miles a week. I was pumping up a hill wearing my bright crossing guard style yellow vest and my sporty helmet thinking, “Okay, I got this.” I felt pretty pumped and hopeful. Then I heard, “Coming on your left!” Like I was not moving, this tights-wearing guy with his fancy clip-in shoes, bright Corona biking shirt, sleek helmet with little mirror thingy attached to the side went flying by me.”
I think if there had been a pub at the top of that hill I might have pulled in, tossed my helmet in the trash and ordered a Corona and the largest order of breaded hot wings or cheese fries they had on the menu. This guy with his little girly butt flying by me made me forget my progress and hope and trade it in for total discouragment.
Is that what we do to people in church? By adding so many conditions to the rescue Jesus brought, have we made the good news just too heavy and too complicated to handle? Do we lighten the load and encourage or do we present a false reality of perfection that discourages? By pretended that no one struggles do we miss the opportunity to help each other overcome the hills we face?
God loved. God gave. When we believe we receive. That’s it. That’s all. It’s good news.