Have you ever been disenfranchised with Church, Christianity, etc? I have. I have come so close to “leaving” because I’m so fed up with all the politics, all the drama, all the lines drawn in the sand by professed followers of God. I’m so tired of all the expectations that can be put on people. Sometimes it seems that “saints” within the church expect more from people than they do from God. When this happens it’s clear that the church has gone from being a movement and has turned into an organization that must self-preserve.
Recently someone reminded me that “the gospel is not safe anywhere, especially in church.” This gospel, or good news, is radical. It’s life-changing. It can’t be contained. It can’t be dwarfed into a doctrine or explained within a fundamental belief. Think of it this way: How do you box air? How do you describe music to someone who’s never heard the sound before? How do you express in words the color of a sunset to someone who has never been able to see with their eyes? How do you whittle down the gospel of love into 28 beliefs, or cram it into a creed? It may be a good try and you may hit parts of the gospel, but it is ultimately quite impossible. In fact, when we do that, could it be that we begin to lose the very essence of the gospel? Could it be that it slips through our fingers like trying to cup all of the oxygen into our hands?
What is the gospel? It is the scandalous truth that there is this Love, this Grace, that is beyond any human achievement. It’s given everything for us and is constantly compelling us to surrender to it, to look beyond ourselves and give this Love and Grace fully to others – regardless of who they are. I believe it was made manifest to us beautifully by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is anti-ego, anti-agenda. It is this sacredness that is yearning to pick us out of the mundane of our routined-existence and awaken us to the reality that there is a Being Who not only loves us, but is constantly wanting to rescue us from our kingdom of selfishness, and carry us into an awareness of a new reality about a kingdom of love and a freedom from the darkness that surrounds us…including the darkness of religion. The gospel is this crazy movement that is the essence of a life-force that brings the world, the entire world, hope. It embodies Love to every single creature on this spinning earth, and that love is more than just a feeling or a mere belief – that Love will manifest itself in actions to every creature, because that is what it is at its very core. So if people are filled with this Love, they can’t help but BE that movement of love to their world, wherever they may be. This love has the potential to turn our world upside down!
This reality, this gospel, is dangerous – especially to religious people. When you think about organizations, corporations, companies, etc., the people who work within them can become religious about the company itself, and lose sight of why it even started. They can protect the building and corporate offices, and end up losing the essence and vision of why it was created in the first place. Religion protects and guards – Spirituality pulses and moves. The gospel is dangerous to people who have to protect an organization because the gospel, aka LOVE, or the SACRED, threatens those who have built their identity and foundation of belief on ideas instead of on the Spirit. When we look at history, many religious organizations have referred to this gospel movement as “apostasy.” The definition of apostasy is ” the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief.” And so, maybe many religious people are correct to call the gospel an apostasy – because Love, Grace, and the Kingdom of God are a sort of Apostasy – they go against human thinking of self-preservation and man-made ideology. The gospel can’t be copyrighted. It can’t be claimed by a group of people, because it claims all people! We just respond – that’s the crazy movement of the gospel of love and grace! It’s like trying to patent water – impossible. We just respond to its existence and thrive off of it.
The church should be the place that helps to vehicle this gospel to every nation, kindred tongue and people – no signing of papers to join our company and start paying club membership fees. Just trust the gospel to do what it does – draw people to it, like an oasis in the desert – free and available to all. The church should be the place to let everyone know that the oasis exists. Unfortunately the church has, at times, fallen short. And so the church needs people who are willing to stand and shout it from the rooftops (or steepletops) within these man-made buildings, corporations, and companies called “church”. I would even go so far as agreeing with Jesus (Who was guilty of apostasy by the church of His day), by stating that perhaps there are people who are not “in church” who are getting into the kingdom of God ahead of the religious people. It’s possible to be religious about church, but deny the gospel (see Matthew 21:31). In fact, could it be that the church is too many times holding the gospel hostage, adding clauses, lines to sign, policies to vote, amending articles, etc? And so those who are outside the confines of church politics have the freedom to be an avenue for the gospel to fully express itself.
So it is that at this time in my life, I will choose to preach – experience, live-out, shout out, step out-side-the-box – yes, I will preach this gospel! Especially to the church. But I am also aware that those who have done this (Jesus, Luther, many of the Reformers, etc) have been crucified in one way or another. The gospel is dangerous! It is scandalous. The gospel is not safe anywhere. May God give me the strength to never be ashamed of the gospel – especially in church.