Religion Nitpicks “truth”. Relationship Embraces Mystery.
So I recently I Tweeted/Facebooked something that caused a few friends to wonder if I still love Jesus. I had a couple calls and a few comments about it. The short answer is yes, I absolutely do. But I’ve posted our conversation at the bottom of this blog because I think its an important conversation to have.
Whether we are talking Christianity or politics or sub-cultures, I think we as humans are prone to go for the “us VS them” mentality. But seeing as I am a Christian and a human who voted and Christianity has unfortunately become a “sub-culture”, I feel qualified to throw my thoughts at you.
The thing about defining ourselves by what we believe is that it is incredibly dangerous. Wars are fought over belief. Humans have been enslaved because of belief. Women have been downgraded as secondary citizens because of belief. Belief is dangerous. What’s more is that ANY belief can be nitpicked to the “enth” degree. So much so that Christianity has more denominations than McDonalds has locations.
However, RELATIONSHIP embraces mystery and is completely outside of any belief box. Relationship is impossible to attack because it is experienced. I can tell you facts all day long, but for every fact that has EVER been I can show you someone who vehemently disagrees with it. Relationship is where the mystery lies. Its not understandable. Relationship is a mystery and its what this life is all about.
For all of you who are worried about me, let me just say this. The core of who I am believes that Jesus was the son of God and he died for me and rose again and yes, this belief is important to me. But if I believe for a second that this belief has anything to do with wither or not I am “in” or “out” with God (whatever that means) then I am being utterly ridiculous. Jesus said even demons believe.
And to think because I believe something that I can judge whether someone else- anyone else is too far outside of my set of beliefs to be pulled in by God’s amazing grace is a ridicules thought. That’s up to God. My job is to seek out a “relationship” based on total faith in this God who is so far beyond me that I see and “know” but a speck of who he is (though I could also say “she”). And that is enough for any human to handle. To try and take that speck and boil it down to a set of A + b = C beliefs is just silly in my mind.
OK, so the conversation that got me thinking about this blog is pasted below. I did edit a few words to help make me look just a little more eloquent.
MY TWEET/FACEBOOK POST: “We have an entire life and afterlife to learn about God. Why do we pretend to know all the answers now? Its OK not to know. Mystery itself is beautiful and alluring.”
FRIEND: Okay, I love this, Joel, but only if you combine it with this (which I’m pretty sure you do): “What I believe about God is the most important thing about me” -AW Tozer
JOEL: No, I don’t actually believe that. I think we have a generation who has defined itself by what we believe as opposed to how we love. Jesus never went around talking about belief, he went around modeling a relationship. I am sure much of what I believe (fully, truly believe) is totally off. And that is because if I bring it down to, A +B = C, I have boiled down the greatest mystery into a set of statements. I don’t think its about the content of my belief but about the transformation of my heart and the way with which I love.
I do believe A LOT. I totally believe it. But the content of my belief should be the last thing someone I meet knows about me. After time that will most likely come up, but how I love and live and pray and play…etc. should be what is experienced!
FRIEND: I would agree with everything you said, but I think how I love is based on what I TRULY believe about God. Inseparable.
JOEL: Far be it from me to disagree with Tozer, but I would say “What God believes about me is the most important thing about me.
FRIEND: Yes, but what I believe He believes is still what I believe. haha
JOEL: I have KNOWN so many things to be TRUE about God. And then I got older, experience more of God and life and creation and grew in a little wisdom and love and found out I was a jackass for teaching people religiosity rather than Jesus. Based on my life so far, I would say there is much of what I truly believe now that is not true. But that’s the beauty of it. God doesn’t grade us on our beliefs. I don’t grade my daughter on what she knows and how “right” she is. God loves us and that’s it. I am convinced eternity will be spent learning about God and he is so great and so big we will never see the whole picture. If that’s true, then far be it from me to push my belief on anyone. I will push my love on them though, because that’s what the world needs. Love trumps even the most true of true belief.
FRIEND: Oh my word…Joel…I so agree. But I just think there’s not the dichotomy there that seems to be. But I love what you’re getting at. “You will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free…..I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life…”
JOEL: I like it . I just think we will spend eternity getting to know the truth more and more and being set free more and more .
ANOTHER FRIEND: I agree Joel, we will have eternity getting to know the Truth, but we only get eternity because of what we believe. Belief is important. Jesus is THE truth, He said it Himself, and He said ‘whoever believes in me will not perish but have everlasting life.’ I totally agree that the way truth has been presented in the past (and now) is not loving, which it should be. And of course love is the key because God is love, and Jesus was the epitome of love and therefore the perfect model for us. It’s all about Him though!
JOEL: I do agree that it is all about Jesus . However, the rub comes in for me when we read, “whoever believes in me will not perish but have everlasting life” and then we presume to fully understand what it means to “believe in him”. We have set up a “sinners prayer” which is nowhere in the bible and we have set up a list of what means you are “in” and what means you are “out”. I believe it’s this list that has kept us from loving like Jesus and instead we have lived by a set of beliefs that leads to a set of rules (similar to when the Pharisees had a whole list and then Jesus boiled it all down to love/relationship). Yet the bible is (I believe purposefully) UNCLEAR about what it means to truly “follow Jesus”. This is because we cannot fully grasp it and because searching out this mystery is itself a beautiful romance.
Following Jesus has nothing to do with everlasting life in heaven. Heaven and salvation are two totally separate things. I used to see them in the same light, but while I agree it is my relationship with… not belief in Jesus that is all important I don’t preach about him because of anything to do with eternal life. While we are called to judge righteously, we have no place telling absolutely ANYONE if they are “in” or “out”…whatever that means. God judges the heart and if he wants to love and accept and romance and embrace those who do not have the same content of belief as me or think the same way, that is his prerogative. I preach Jesus because I can’t imagine how sucky it would be to go through this life and not know him, not because I want people to be “in”.
I am not at all attacking your belief. I am simply telling you where my journey has taken me. And as I said above, I am sure much of what I truly, whole-heartedly believe is only such a small glimpse of the picture, that I’m willing to bet I am more wrong that right. And that’s ok. Its a beautiful, romantic, amazing journey.