On the recent celebration of my 55th birthday, my wife asked me to share five (and a half) things I’ve learned in my half-century +5 of life. Since five is the number of grace and wisdom I thought it might be appropriate to consider. So here we go: Five Important Things I’ve Learned in Fifty-Five Years of Life.
(1) If you want to be “Christ-like” you must know what Christ is like
The word “Christian” means “follower of Christ” or, more literally, “little Christ.” Yet it seems that less and less American Christians look like the Christ we actually see in the Bible. We look more like the blue-eyed, patriotic, gun-toting American Jesus that we invented, rather than one in the Bible – the suffering servant who constantly scolded well-to-do, religious, law-and-order people of the Bible.
It’s interesting that, when presented with the choice of Jesus, the suffering servant and Barabbas, the zealot who wanted to rebelliously overturn the government, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day stirred up the people to choose the one they believed could give them governmental power. It very much seems today’s religious leaders would stir up the people to choose government power over looking like Christ. Read the Bible – that idol we created called “American Jesus” simply isn’t in there.
(2) Jesus is not coming soon: “morning or night or noon.”
We used to sing this snappy ditty – “Jesus is coming soon, morning or night or noon.” As catchy as the tune may have been, it’s actual meaning – you better have your crap buttoned up because if you went to a movie theater or were listening to rock music, you were going to be “left behind” at any moment and soon the “666” would be slapped on your forehead.
The trauma of twelve-year-old me believing my family had been taken and I was judged unworthy to go is bad enough, but the real damage of these end times beliefs have been much more far-reaching.
The “rapture” belief that Jesus would soon take us “good” people out the world and blow up all the rest has caused us to neglect the environment, celebrate big government deficits or refuse to invest in infrastructure for future generations. It also has caused many Christians not only spend an inordinate amount of time looking for evil in crazy conspiracy theories, it gives them reason to celebrate it, as affirmation, when they do find it – invented in their own minds or not.
The command of the Bible, however, is to treat the world, as a bride preparing for a groom to return for a wedding. Nobody allows their wedding venue to be trashed and neglected. They prepare it to be the most beautiful it can be. Christians need to know this is their job and the rest of us need to know we’re not going to be left behind.
(3) If we don’t know who we really are how will We live the way we’re supposed to live
I work as an executive coach and often work with Christians who’ve been consistently taught to see themselves as “dirt” – terrible creatures who are fortunate God doesn’t zap them right now. This view of a harsh God causes them to display this harshness to others around them.
The whole of the Bible story, however, is of a creator passionately pursuing the creatures that were created in order to reassure them they were declared “good” even before they existed. Knowing that story causes us to want to look like the benevolent creator as much as possible, not find someone else to mistreat since we are so mistreated by the judge of us.
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(4) God is OK if you change your mind. In fact, he commands you to.
The idea that we have to defend our beliefs at all cost and call “Fake News” or label as “liberal” any idea that disagrees with us goes against the command of the Bible to not be “conformed to this age” (to your own bubble.” The passage says we are to be transformed by the ongoing renewal of our minds.
The problem with Christians who say “I live by scripture” are often actually living by their preferred interpretation of the Bible and rarely stop to consider there are other Christians who read the text differently. In fact, our churches have created a fear of “being deceived” that implores us to never consider other thoughts and beliefs – or people who believe other things – as worthy of our time.
Jesus scolded the religious leaders of his day for “taking away the keys to knowledge.” There’s a proverb in the Bible that says “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” In other words, God created wisdom, science, debate, learning – if we understand our true identity as valuable and not dirt, we will understand it is our duty and privilege to search out deeper understanding.
A person shouldn’t be afraid to learn. All there is to lose is bondage to an old mindset.
(5) Things might get ugly, but it’s going to be OK
Much of Christian political thought today is based upon fear – “If we don’t for the right candidate, our religion will be gone. Or we spend time screaming “socialism” or some other scary word about some boogeyman.
There is no doubt in my mind we are in tumultuous times and there are even deeper troubles ahead, but, in the story of the Bible, those times of “shaking” were important to a people remembering what was really important and having their ‘faces and hearts turned back to God.”
Yes, our systems of culture might be in great peril now, but let’s not assume that’s the worst thing to happen. Perhaps these times are bringing some heart issues into the light – particularly in those of the Christians belief system, that need to be dealt with and changed.
Yes, the coming weeks and months might be difficult, but I am convinced something letter is on the other side. It might take the transition of a generation, but a “new” and “better us” is on the other side.
(5/and a half (at my wife’s request)) – It’s awesome to have a son born on your birthday
It’s awesome to share your birthday with a son, as my last 18 birthdays have been. Well, it’s half awesome, actually, because it means my birthday is now second string to his. Small price to pay though for a father to have an amazing son! Do you think God feels the same about you and me? Are we worth it to him? And all of those people around us, as well?