Fellow brothers & sisters in Christ, there have been a few things bugging me lately… and well, it’s about us. As the body of Christ, we are in need of a serious physical. And it’s not all the world’s fault. We’re weak from neglecting such spiritual disciplines as study of the Word and prayer. We’ve become distracted. So let’s put down our stones, and do some self-inspection, shall we? Following is a list of some of our ailments:
· Pulpit Pimps. It’s big pimpin’ for the so-called “Grassley Six”, the group of high profile, prosperity preachers such as Benny Hinn, Paula White and the appropriately monikered Creflo Dollar, who are under scrutiny by the government because of possible “excessive compensation, income unrelated to the business purpose of the ministries, and perks or what is known as ‘excessive benefit transactions.’” This group live in mansions, own jets and are worth millions. Televangelists have long been an embarrassing blemish on the face of modern Christianity. Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Baker caused major scandal in the 80’s and Pat Robertson regularly puts his foot in his mouth today (remember his Hurricane Katrina comments?). These profit prophets are especially hurtful since they have such a wide audience thanks to advancements in cable, satellite and the internet. While there’s nothing wrong with having money, we are clearly warned against loving it. It is insidious to mix the teaching of donating or tithing with admonitions to give to a particular group in order to receive blessings in return, garner God’s favor or receive healing. I pity those who are busy storing up worldly possessions. But I’m more angry that so many people believe doing so is part of the Gospel.
· Republican is NOT a denomination within Christianity. But neither is Democrat. There is nothing wrong with voting according to your conscious, and although the Jehovah’s Witnesses would disagree, being politically involved. There is much wrong with blurring faith with politics to the point the two are seemingly indistinguishable. While in the U.S. the Right has been the de facto party for the religious since the 80’s, all that political involvement is coming back to haunt us now. According to “unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity... and Why It Matters” by David Kinnamon and Gabe Lyons, thousands of nonbelievers are turned off from the Gospel message by evangelical Christians who seem more preoccupied with politics than prayer. If you fall in this category, I admonish you to refocus on Christ and “Him, crucified.” Oh, and lest my conservative friends think I’m only picking on you, I’m not. At least you all never said Bush is sort of God, like some Dems have said referring to Obama. Which is just downright creepy.
· “It’s the End of the World and They KNOW It.” This one’s dedicated to those who expend massive amounts of time, energy and even money fixating on the date of the Savior’s return. This is nothing new to Christianity; back in the 1800’s thousands of Christians left mainstream churches in droves convinced Jesus was coming back (they even disposed of property and possessions). The latest movement was spawned in part by the extreme success of the “Left Behind Series” in the 90’s and has led to an abundance of books, miniseries, documentaries and websites. This fascination on the future has led to two major problems. First, some Christians have become so preoccupied (obessessed?) that they neglect to live life in the present. They might not be signing away the deed to their homes like the Millerites, but they hardly seem to care much for the daily struggles which this present life entails- neglecting Jesus’ message to give to “the least of these.” Some have actually fallen into sin by becoming false prophets- setting actual dates for the Second Coming. This is in direct conflict of Matthew 24:36 which says “No one knows when that day or hour will come-not the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father,” and Acts 1:7 goes further saying “…It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority”. So stop overstepping your bounds. Do you really think you know more than Christ Himself???
· They Wear Their Faith on Their Sleeves (But Not in Their Hearts). These believers are easy to spot. They’re the ones with the biggest crosses hanging from their necks, Bible positioned in full view in their back windshields and the requisite Jesus fish plastered on their back bumpers. And unfortunately, the ones flipping you the bird as they cut you off, mouths full of expletives. They’re all about Jesus. They blast Kirk Franklin or Mary Mary, or listen to Lifehouse proudly. They more than like Him… they have hoodies emblazoned with “Jesus Freak” on the back. He is their homeboy after all, at least that’s what their t-shirts say. And like Kanye West, “Jesus Walks” with them. But with words and actions so full of venom, I’m left wondering, but do you walk with HIM? As Christians, we’re meant to follow, or be disciples of Christ, not the other way around. Truly giving all to Him is about sacrifice. Romans 12:1 says “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” Every day, I must kill my selfish desires, not merely draping myself in Christianity, but allowing the Holy Spirit to work on my heart. There is nothing wrong with displaying your faith- right now I’m wearing a cross and (full disclosure) I own a “Jesus is my Homeboy” t-shirt, which was a gift from a few years ago. But just owning Christian gear does not a Christian make. How can you tell if someone is really committed to Christ? “Ye shall know them by their fruits… Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” Matthew 7 continues with this stark warning “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
· An Inconvenient Truth. The thing about truly following Christ is... with all that blessing those who curse you and turning the other cheek... well, in a world that glorifies winning at all costs (get that man even if he's married!... so you had to lie your way to the top, now you're the boss!... the ends justifiy the means)... is just so inconvenient! Who really wants to deal with doing all this good anyway? And what about all the mess in this world...some wrongs are just plain evil- think of the child molesters, the rapists and murders. Yet, we are told to forgive them. I'll admit, I struggle in the forgiveness area. It's hard. The best advice I received on this was from my former pastor who told me that forgiveness is a process, one that might have to be repeated daily. Yet, the reality is, Christians must forgive, and give, and above all love. And in a fallen world, this is a very tall order. But Jesus made it clear: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6) Inconvenient it may be, but as Christians, we must follow the Truth, and nothing but the Truth, so help us God.
And I believe, this is where the previous four types of Christians have gone wrong. They have lost sight of Jesus, replacing Him as their central focus with money, politics and Armageddon. Or they are "reppin'" Christ- without following Him and His commandments. I want to close with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." It's time we started being more like Christ.
Signed your sister,
Alisha aka FAR