Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Human Faith

We are a generation of the church whose witness to the faith includes quite frequently a couple of words that we never see in the witness of the Gospels - "I" and "we." More often than not, when we talk about what it means to be a Christian, we are talking about what it means to be in our church, what it means to practice as we practice, what it means to do what we do.

There's a tremendous danger in such a witness, and it's one that we're seeing play out before our very eyes every day. It's simply this:

When our witness is to a human faith, it becomes just one of many options for the living of a human life. In a world that says what works for you may not work for me, when we talk about our faith as the sum of our practice or the attendance of our worship or the scope of our programs, we're presenting a very subjective experience of it that does not depend on anything more than our participation in it. And it is then extremely easy for the world to look right back at us and say, "Sure. That works for you."

But for the world? It's "just one option."

And what happens is that this world can look at us, can hear our testimony, can embrace our witness and reject our faith...without rejecting our Christ. How could they reject Him? They don't even know Him.

What they're rejecting is our churches. What they're rejecting is our programs. What they're rejecting is our discipline. Everything that we put before them as measures of our faith and how we practice it, they're not interested in. It just seems like a testimony of how we, as Christians, spend our day.

They aren't rejecting our Jesus; He's conspicuously absent from our witness. They aren't rejecting His sacrifice; they don't even know what the Cross means. They aren't rejecting His grace; they don't know the first thing about it. They aren't rejecting His promise; we haven't extended it to them. They aren't rejecting our Jesus because we haven't told them about Him.

We've only told them about us. About Christians.

Not about our Christ.

That's what's so remarkable about the Gospel witnesses. Not once are they about the adventures and exploits of the disciples themselves. Not once does one of these guys sneak in an "I" or a "we;" even when they travel from one place to another, it's always, "Then Jesus got on a boat...", "Then Jesus crossed over the sea...", "Then Jesus went to the city...". Not "we." He. Always, always He.

And this was the difference. For the early Christians, for the early church, for the early faith, this was all the difference. They were still working out what it meant to practice "the Way." They were still developing the new sacred rhythms of the new faith. But what they had to build it all on was the real Lord, the Jesus who walked among them, and the men who dared to tell them what He was all about. Ask one of the disciples about being a Christian, and he will tell you plainly about his Christ. Love Him or hate Him, you cannot walk away from a true testimony about Jesus thinking that's kind of "nice" or that it "works for you but not for me."

Faced with the wonders and the wisdom and the witness of Him, indifference is no longer a choice.

This is the kind of witness we need to recapture in our churches. This is the kind of witness we need in our faith. Sadly, that seems right now to be easier said than done, for there is one glaring reason why it's not the kind of witness that we have. Stay tuned for that, tomorrow.

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