A Blog for The Imperfect Church
We make faith harder than it needs to be. Much harder. It’s a human thing we do.
Think of how twisting, wrestling, stressing and contorting so many religious ideologies and doctrines have been on the human psyche. World history is full of carnage and human suffering at the hands of the religious elite. Scientists and supposed witches burned at the stake. People courageously rethinking theology stretched on the rack. In more modern times, “God Hates You” signs held up at political gatherings. Journalists beheaded on camera and aircraft flown into the sides of skyscrapers. Women stoned in the public square. All done in the name of uncompromising faith and passionate devotion to God. All horrible things, that if indeed from God, make God out to be a pretty nasty fellow.
Step back from these obviously sensational and provocative examples of religion terribly distorting the human experience, and look in on the more average faithful follower in your local neighborhood. How many believers do you know—perhaps even that one that stares back at you from the bathroom mirror—who struggle to find true joy, contentment, peace, and unlimited encouragement from their faith?
Regardless of how devout they may actually be, most believers I know seem to carry this inescapably nagging sense of spiritual insufficiency. They don’t love God enough. They don’t know how to pray correctly. They don’t know the Bible well enough. They can’t explain their faith to a skeptic they’re close to. They harbor too many doubts; their faith is too tepid, their fears too pervasive. They sin too often, pray too infrequently, love too inconsistently…these are all things they think to be true.
But I am not sure they are correct.
Jesus of Nazareth, son of a local Jewish carpenter named Joseph, upended the whole structure of religion in ancient Palestine. His life has echoed throughout the next two millennia—albeit often misinterpreted and applied in the grotesque manners we’ve already spoken of. But if we strip away all of the twisted nonsense that many of his so-called followers have wrought through centuries of religious elitism and control, and go back to the actual historical record of what Jesus taught and did, we see something amazing.
With fierce and focused energy, Jesus squarely confronted the complicated structure of religious faith, and drove us to one singular, simple expression of our relationship with God: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind.” He added a period.
Oh…and then he added, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments,” he said. In other words, genuine spirituality is just that simple. Love God. Love people. Period.
One of the shortest verses in the New Testament states it another way, with crisp simplicity and piercing clarity: “God is love.” Period.
Religious people will already be getting a little itchy. Yes, God is love. But what about repentance? What about holiness? What about sin…it’s such a big deal, you know?
Yep. Sin is a big deal. It tears up a whole lot inside of us, around us, and through us. I know—I sin often (just ask my co-workers, my closest friends, and my wife), and every time I do it messes up an awful lot of things and hurts people.
Religious folks might expect me to say here that sin offends God and breaks His heart. But I have a slightly different take. The God that I see in the Christian scriptures has really big shoulders, and He is not caught off guard by our oft and destructive mistakes. The genuine offense God takes in sin is much more about how deeply He loves you, and He grieves for the destructive forces that sin manifests in you and those you sin against. Yes…repentance is critically essential for us to encounter the wonderfully powerful love of God in direct healing and restoration of places we’ve so deeply damaged within ourselves and others.
Anything genuine about repentance and healing will be rooted in the awareness and embracing of the simple truth that God is love. Period.
Just last month, a group of us started this organic, simple church called The Imperfect Church precisely to focus in on this truth of God’s love in all its simplicity, and to learn to practice loving God and others fully, unconditionally, patiently, and with unlimited grace and mercy. In doing so, we believe we will encounter the power of God’s love—working through His Holy Spirit—that can lead us to actual transformation, genuine repentance, and profound healing.
I hope you’ll consider joining us for a gathering. Check out this simplicity of faith, and see if it resonates with you and your spirituality in a fresh way. Our next two gatherings are on Sunday nights, November 10 and December 8 from 5:00 – 7:15 p.m. Dinner is included, so come hungry—at The Leesburg Junction, 215 Depot Ct., Leesburg, VA.