Thursday, June 4, 2015

Jesus is Around Here Somewhere... I Just Don't See Him

    While in Rome, my dad and I had the chance to visit the Vatican City and St. Peter's Basilica inside the city walls. While it would probably have been a lot more spectacular had I been a Catholic, it was still an incredible experience, even as a Reformed Protestant (about as non-Catholic as you can get!). But the three hours I spent inside the city made me think a lot during our trip.

    As you walk through the Vatican, you see incredible works of art, magnificent objects that are literally priceless. Who knows what they would be sold for! Works of art for which men dedicated years of their lives, sometimes even their entire lives, to accomplishing. And as you walk through the city, the headquarters of this religion, you see the splendor and the incredible glory of the amassed wealth and power of this particular church.

    But when you take a step back from the wonder and amazement all this might bring at first glance, you begin to wonder something. Where is Jesus? You might tell me that He is in all these paintings around me, woven in the tapestries around me, painted on the ceiling above my head, chiseled into the sculpture I'm looking at. But I'm not asking for a picture of Jesus. I'm asking where the heart of Jesus is in all this?

    How can we reconcile that Jesus, a penniless Jewish rabbi with only twelve consistent followers is head of a church that spent millions in self-beautification? Where is Jesus' love for the poor, for the sick, for the lost reflected in the wealth and ceremony of this giant organization? Where are the teachings of Christ to love your neighbor as yourself reflected in the huge churches that tower above a lost city?

     But the point of my article is not to criticize the Catholic church. My point is instead to strike a blow at us, who would read this article, nod our heads, and call down our figurative fire from heaven on them for their hypocrisy, while ignoring our own.

    Are our churches any different? Are our Christian lives any different? How much of our Christian life is discussing Christ, talking about Him, but not actually showing His love? How much of our church time do we spend walking all around Jesus, touching, feeling, tasting, smelling, without ever actually taking part in what Jesus did and said to do?

    No, our American churches (at least for the most part) don't hoard massive amounts of money. No, they don't build massive statues of our leaders. No, they don't spend millions on ornate graves of saints and popes. But we have our own alternate ways of doing "Christ's" work.

    When we drive by the poor under the bridges in our town in order to go to our comfortable pews and hear about Jesus, are we any less hypocritical than the Catholics who built extravagant churches to celebrate Christ while ignoring His work? Do we do ignore Him less when we build $25,000,000 churches, with gyms and cafeterias, while Uganda starves and Sudan dies? Can we truly point our fingers at the falsity of Catholicism's inconsistencies while we do the same under a different cloak and a different guise?

    What would happen if the church began recognizing that the church is not a building, but is a body. A body of people united under a common cause and Savior, with the same purpose. No, the purpose is not to become greater and greater so that God will become greater and greater with us. No, the purpose is not to build the biggest and the greatest so that God will be the biggest and greatest through our accomplishments for Him.

    What if we realize that our purpose, our united motive, is to spread Jesus Christ, both His story and His love, across the world, to every single person? Would our attitudes change, our ambitions, our drives, our goals, our means, our processes? Would our strategies change for church growth? Would our daily lives change?

    If our acts of worship to God ceased to be the public acts in front of everyone (whether it be the building of an ornate cathedral or the giving of an extra long opening prayer at church) and we began to understand that our obedience to God is the showing of love to others, I think our churches would change. I don't think we'd spend our money or our time the same way. If we understood the war we were engaged in, and the goal at the end, I think our strategy for winning would change.

    See, if the goal of the church is simply to bring people in and get them to pray a prayer, then we're going about it perfectly. We want the biggest, most fun looking building you can find. We should soften the gospel down to its smallest, easiest to swallow dose in order to be accepted by the greatest number of people. We should come up with the grandest, most comical schemes to make church look "cool" and "fun", convincing people that following Jesus isn't just the right thing to do, but the fun thing to do.

    But if the goal of Jesus Christ isn't just to stop at conversion, but instead to motivate and inspire a group of people to spread His name, His glory, and His love, then we're going about it all wrong. You don't show love by flaunting the biggest building or greatest programs. You don't show love by driving by the poor to get to a comfortable building to sit and hear about loving. You show love... by loving.

    What I fear we've done is we've made Jesus into such a comfortable, laid back part of our life that He is only necessary or even used at conversion, then abandoned in favor of me. We spend our Sunday's, and for that matter our entire weeks, not loving like Christ, not demonstrating Christ, but just talking about Him, maybe hyping yourself up for the work for Him you've convinced yourself you'll do one day.

    The church's job is not to make ourselves look good, successful, or cool. It is to communicate Christ on earth. We are His body. We are His hands on earth, the tools through which He communicates His grace and love. And if we do not, then the body of Christ is ignoring its very purpose.


  1. Yes, yes, yes... Wow. This was amazing, so true, and so needed. Can you please pick one Sunday afternoon and preach this in the church?

    1. Hmm, thinking about it... Probably not, but who knows? If I do, I'll send you a CD!

  2. Wow. This is a fantastic read, Taylor. So true

    1. Thank you, Rachel! I'm glad it was encouraging!

  3. This is amazing. Such a challenge. Thanks Taylor!

    1. Thank you for dropping by to read it! I'm glad it was an encouragement.