Sometimes I get embarrassed by how loud my kids are in church, especially with my husband being in ministry. There are a couple of larger families who go to my church who have kids who behave perfectly. They sit upright in the pews so quietly, and actually appear to be paying attention. In contrast, my kids aren’t horrible, but there is a lot of rustling and coloring of papers, jostling for position, and forgetting how to whisper that goes on in our pew.
A couple of Sundays ago, Anna decided to be different. Instead of the usual squirm fest, she perched quietly and attentively in my lap during the first part of service. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. When the Lord’s Supper came around, however, Anna reached expectantly for a wafer while telling us by way of explanation,
“I’ve been quiet.”
Our concentration on the communion experience was temporarily shot as Greg and I pulled her arm back, while trying not to crack up. We quickly and softly tried to explain to her why being quiet did not give her a pass to take the Lord’s Supper with us. I had to chuckle inside as I thought about my three-year-old’s analysis of communion. Apparently, we have not sufficiently conveyed to her the idea that the Lord’s Supper is for Christians, and so based on her observations, she determined that the ones who took communion were the ones who could be still during the worship, who could stay quiet.
There was something profound about that conclusion to me.
We may not be as naive as my toddler, but I do think that somewhere along the line, many of us got the message that the true Christians are the ones who follow the rules, who stay in line, who know how to be quiet and obey.
Which made sense, it really did. Until I really started reading the Bible.
And I saw that Jesus didn’t follow the rules. In fact, Jesus often seemed to despise the rules, all the do’s and don’ts of religion. He seemed to think they kept people from God, not brought them to Him. And while upholding the value of the Law, He also cut to the heart of it when He summed it up as love God and love others. In the Sermon on the Mount, He even outlined what that love looked like, and the picture He paints is mind-blowing. In it’s deeply radical nature, it basically demonstrates the utter futility of thinking that the mere following of external rules will lead you to God.
And Jesus didn’t stay in line. Instead, He was so subversive, so counter-cultural, that He threatened every power structure of His day. The inherent goal of any power structure is to keep people in line and to maintain the status quo. In His treatment of prostitutes, drunkards, tax collectors, and lepers–not to mention that little incident in the Temple–Jesus shattered the status quo, and He stepped decidedly out of line.
And Jesus didn’t keep quiet. When He saw injustice, He was moved enough to speak up and do something about it. He wasn’t afraid to tell people about a better way to God, a true Way.
You know, I have been a Christian for twenty years now, and an earnest one most of that time. God has used each step of my journey, I firmly believe, to bring me closer to Him. In these last few years, though, I’ve become radicalized. I think it really started when I first read the Bible through, back in 2006. Sometimes, as much as I love the church, I think that our mainstream, powerful status as an established institution has inoculated us to the radicalism of Jesus. At least, I know that I was inoculated. Maybe that’s not the church’s fault, but my own. Regardless, in the last three years especially, some of my “lenses” came off, the lenses through which I had been reading Scripture. The lenses that told me that you could still be a good Christian and follow the American dream. The lenses that told me that you could follow Jesus and still look normal to society. Whether I would have admitted it or not, whether I could even have understood it if I was told, my lenses basically equated the Christian life with a more spiritual version of being a good citizen.
Now, those lenses are gone. I’m sure there are more lenses that need to be shed, like the scales that fell from Paul’s eyes so he could see, but some pretty major ones have fallen off these last three years.
And so, among other things…
No longer am I content to follow the rules.
No longer am I content to stay in line.
No longer am I content to be quiet.
Instead, I want to be like Jesus.
More on that in the next post...