One thing I love about blogging is that it gives me a written record of the evolution of my thoughts and convictions. For over five years, I’ve kept a family blog, the purpose of which is basically to show cute pictures of my kids and tell relatives what we are up to. In between posts about first words and trips to the beach, however, spiritual thoughts would sometimes infiltrate what was supposed to simply be a digital scrapbook. Although they didn’t fit with the purpose of the blog, I’m so thankful that I wrote them so that I can remember how I thought at different points in my life. Below is a reprint of a post I wrote 2 1/2 years ago, on July 16, 2009. That year was when I first took hold of the idea of the kingdom of God, and of the idea that Jesus might be calling Christians to a lifestyle more radical than most of us had been taught. Looking back over these words, I see that while my thoughts are not 100% in the same place as they were then, the basic conviction has endured:
I had a conversation last week with a former youth grouper turned youth intern. She was talking about a Sunday school series she was teaching to the girls at her church on syncretism. The most recent lesson was on country music, a genre in which, to paraphrase her words, “God, church, drinking, America, and tractors” are all grouped together with a tidy bow. She was obviously highlighting the potential dangers of such philosophies which join Biblical concepts with unbiblical practices.
I have been thinking lately about the different things like that, but I haven’t been using the word syncretism (that’s a little too fancy, if you ask me:)). Instead, I’ve been thinking about things that are what I call “package deals,” things that have both good and bad in them, but you have to take the whole package. Take a movie, for example. A movie might have some amazing themes about life, love, and redemption that really make you think…and that same movie might have profanity, sex, and loads of violence. If you choose to watch it, you are taking a package deal. You have to take the good with the bad. Or take a political party. The two major ones each have their own package deals, called platforms. If you are going to vote for a viable candidate for office in this country, you must choose one or the other. And in doing so, you take the whole package of that party. I would love if I could pick and choose. I would love a party that was pro-life, pro-children, pro-education, pro-Christianity, pro-poor people, pro-environment, and anti-torture…but that party does not exist. That’s the problem with package deals. You have to compromise in order to choose them. And while compromise isn’t bad, per se, comprising one’s morals is always dangerous.
Christianity is a package deal, too. I think every sinful human would agree that there is stuff that is “good” and “bad” about Christianity, and by that, I mean there are elements that are either appealing or unappealing. God, peace, heaven, Jesus—appealing. Dying to self, turning the other cheek, giving everything to God—unappealing. But it’s a package deal. There is a point where you either believe and obey the Bible, or you don’t.
Here’s what gets me. I see the dangers of certain movies or certain political parties, but at different times in my life, I have chosen to compromise and watch them/align myself with them. But it is apparently a lot easier to compromise my morals than to compromise my nature. Because when I hear something that goes against my very nature (like the above “unappealing” aspects of Christianity), I am tempted to rationalize them away. Why is that?
I don’t think I am alone in that, which compounds my problem. Take turning the other cheek. I am beginning to think that the church is moving past the idea of turning the other cheek. More and more, the things I hear are not like, “Well, we should turn the other cheek, but our sinful nature makes it hard.” It’s more like, “Jesus apparently meant something else or was speaking hyperbolically, b/c turning the other cheek is completely impractical. I mean, how the heck are we supposed to fight wars if we turn the other cheek? Seriously, it makes no sense.” I hear indignation at the concept of turning the other cheek. I even read a Christian book in which the man advised his son (and readers, apparently) that if anyone ever bullied him, he was to hit them as hard as he could right in the face (cough, Wild at Heart, cough). I’m sure the feral nature in every man’s heart would leap at that chance. Unfortunately, I really do believe that the Bible would not approve knocking someone’s block off in order to defend yourself. I mean, what do you think dying to self means, if notdenying your very nature? Yeah, if someone hits me, I want to hit them back. No duh. And I’m not even a man. That’s what makes the whole “love your enemies” thing hard. And though I will entertain discussion on the use of violence to protect others (war might even fall into that category), to say that you should punch back the person who punches you, I believe, is biblically indefensible. Because according to our sinful nature, the Bible is hard. Christianity is hard. Dying on the cross was hard. And yet, Jesus tells us to be like him, to obey His words, to take up our cross, to die to ourselves. I mean, what did he mean by that?
I have similar thoughts regarding giving, but I think we’ve driven the bus far enough into Crazy Town for one blog, don’t you think? Just know that if you are reading these thoughts and feeling internal opposition, I’m right there with ya. Do you think I want to turn the other cheek? Do you think I want to die to myself? Do you think I want to give the way Jesus apparently called me to? No, no, and no.
But I do want to be with God. And I want to know God. I love Him, and I want to live for Him. I really do. And I am open to the idea that Christianity is radical, crazy, and completely impractical. Because Jesus was all those things.
Why am I writing all of this instead of showing you pictures of my cute kids? I don’t know. Frankly, it completely ruptures the thematic unity of my blog:). I just know that right now in my life, I really want to embrace the “package deal” of Christianity. I’m not even sure what that looks like, exactly, but I am trying to find out. I do know that the whole, entire purpose of my life is to know God and bring glory to Him, and to the extent that I don’t do that, I am wasting my life. Wasting it. And I don’t want to waste my life. I want to embrace my purpose, to be the person I was designed to be.
Even if that means taking the package deal.
What about Christianity makes it hard for you to take the package deal?