I am a Christian.
This isn’t news to anyone who knows me, even marginally. I’m not at all shy about it. Everything I write and share is filtered through this core identity.
If you’ve known me for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed I’ve experienced a bit of an identity crisis in the last few years, wrestling with what it means to be Christian. Here’s what I’m finding on the other side after being pulled through one heck of a major life wall.
JUST THE FACTS MA’AM
The entire reason for my faith is centered on a man who lived over 2000 years ago; born a refugee, raised in a backwater Middle Eastern hamlet. His entire short life was contained within a tiny geographic radius. He never wrote anything to survive in posterity. By every historical definition of power and influence, Jesus’ life is a microscopic blip on the radar. The only reason we’ve heard about him at all is from stuff others wrote from their individual perspectives and agendas.
And that stuff they wrote? Not a single original autograph exists of any book of the bible. Nada. Zilch.
I don’t think the red letters copied and translated over decades before solidifying as the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are Jesus’ words verbatim. The Gospels themselves contain conflicting accounts, and it makes perfect sense to me that they do.
Ever play telephone? I don’t think any of the accounts of events are historically accurate nor were they ever meant to be. Call me weird or a heretic (or a weird heretic) but I find the reality of the human limitations of scripture to be comforting and faith-confirming. It was all written and passed along and manipulated by folks just like you and me. As a writer myself, I revere and cherish the bible for exactly what it is, now more than ever, as I’ve had the courage to reject some very damaging, historically recent church teachings based on what it is not...and cannot be.
PAUL IS MY BOO
The apostles? I trust them. God, I love Paul’s letters especially. What a treasure trove of snap shots of the hardships of early church planting and ministry. He is an open book of contradictions and complexity. We get to see his harshness in frustration as well as unbounded joy and great tenderness, epic failures and miraculous successes; his obvious brilliance contrasted with self-admitted woeful ignorance, arrogance and inadequacy. I love and revere Paul in all his humanness. He has filled the void left by my contemporaries as a pastor and mentor for me these last 5 years. His instructions in the 4th chapter of I Timothy have been particularly intimately, personally encouraging.
But Paul never wrote to me. He wrote as himself from his experience and understanding to his contemporaries; to Timothy, to specific churches of specific people with a specific agenda. Believing Jesus’ return was imminent, he had no way to fathom that his letters would survive thousands of years to be cannonized as scripture. I personally think he would be mortified to see how we’ve taken his words out of context and turned them into unquestionable doctrines that we’ve used to justify all manner of exclusion and persecution. And he most likely wouldn’t be shy about expressing his displeasure in unsavory terms. I mean the guy talked about genital mutilation, dirty menstrual rags, and coming at his wayward congregations with whips to get his point across. Yeah, Paul is my badass Boo.
MY GOD IS FINALLY ENOUGH
Probably the most significant transformation in my understanding is that my view of God is finally big enough and small enough now that I’m a Cage-Free Christian.
My view of God is big enough to handle a universe and earth many billions of years in the making. My view of God is big enough to handle humans having been in existence for hundreds of thousands of years. My view of God is small enough to believe that They (yes “They” – future blog on that later) are the divine breath of life being revealed in the impossibly complex mess of animated dust and meat that is me.
MY JESUS IS ENOUGH TO COVER EVERYTHING IN EVERY DIRECTION
I am a Christian. My view of God is centered on my understanding of Jesus. To me, Jesus is Emanuel – God with Us. Jesus is the ultimate atonement through which humans are reconciled to God.
I am a Christian. I do not believe any doctrine can begin to explain how that atonement works or to define the parameters of God’s grace. I believe any attempt to do so is tragically destructive and counter-productive to the Gospel – The Good News that God does not hold our sins against us, that we are ultimately and completely loved and accepted. All of us. The Great I AM declares YOU ARE in Their image.
I am a Christian. My only agenda is to love in the same way Jesus loves – without condition, without limitation, without personal expectation.
I am a Christian. I recognize the reality of this Love everywhere, with or without any culturally-approved label of “God” attached to it.
I am a Christian. I have no interest whatsoever in recruiting converts. I am, however, solidly committed to training disciples/followers of Jesus. I’ll pour out all that I am, all that I’ve experienced into absolutely anyone who can see and embrace this mystery and is willing.
Yes, I AM a Christian