*Please don’t close the blog automatically upon seeing the subject matter!*
In this post, I want to process an idea that I’ve been sifting through heavily this week and that’s the difference between Christianity as a thought exercise and Christianity as a means of relationship with a Creator/Father/Redeemer/Resurrected-as-an-act-of-love kind of God. I recognize that it all might seem obvious but hear me out.
I have three degrees in ministry and Bible-related study, and they have done their part in my attempting to fulfill the ministry calling that God has placed on my life. But they have fallen so short in calling me into a deeper experience of who He is. I certainly have a deeper knowledge of who He is, but experience? I’d say not, honestly.
My experience – Evangelicalism and Protestant religion has done an excellent job of infusing my days with more and more facts about God’s Word – who wrote which book when and to whom, what was going on in those days, what they meant by ‘such-and-such,’ etcetera. But with my own failings in view and in hearing from so many who have found themselves uncomfortable with what the Church in America represents today, all of this knowledge puffed me (and so many others) up (1 Corinthians 8:1).
Upon finding someone I disagreed with, my chest would puff up and I would try and beat them down with the knowledge I had of the Scriptures and all of the reasons why they were painfully mistaken – all the while causing God to cringe that His name would be used to convince others of how incapable they were of knowing the first thing about Him (Exodus 20:7 – ‘in vain’ here not meaning using God’s name as a curse word, but in the original context, meaning the creation of a human agenda that goes against the heart of God and using Him as a figure-head to push that agenda forward – something that is rampant in the American Church today, including myself).
But I have experienced something altogether different over the last two years which is only just now beginning to set in. I was missing Christ’s love in massive quantities, though I couldn’t see that about myself. I personally believe that this is the case with so many of us (and an inherent predisposition of humanity, so please don’t believe I’m being too harsh here – it’s a fact we all must come to terms with within ourselves – a fact that Paul even mentions of other believers in Romans 12:3, that John writes of in 1 John 1:8 [If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us], and that Jesus speaks of in the parable of the unforgiving servant [Matthew 18:21-35]).
I now recognize that all my knowledge was for naught as it was used as a weapon against those who disagreed with me, a mentality that is anti-Christ (against the mission, wisdom, and heart of Christ). But with the experiencing of the love of God that far overwhelms my desire to outwit others, I have truly begun to experience Him in a way that three religious ed degrees failed to deliver. Years of Bible study and conversations with leaders across different Christian traditions did not drop the scales from my eyes.
But I have been experiencing God’s love for me in a new way recently. Suddenly, He has been painfully addressing my falling-short in this area and many others. He has convinced me yet again (and will continue throughout the rest of my life) that even “If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2).
My heart is awakened to a new reality that has brought freedom unlike what I knew before. Rather than idolizing knowledge (which I believe can so easily be symptomatic of modern-American Christian expression), I had to allow the knowledge of God to humble me (2 Corinthians 10:5). On a universal scale, that work of God would shake the world. We must know that He is not a stuffy subject-matter to be studied. He is alive in ways I don’t know we always recognize or appreciate.
Most of all, I think we need a movement of Christians who don’t settle for the status quo in our own hearts. If I had read this blog two years ago, I would have immediately closed out the tab and believed the message was for someone else because, surely, I was where I needed to be. I knew what I needed to know. And because I was unaware of the depth of my failings, I obviously couldn’t see them (Jeremiah 17:9). Well, the more God has made me aware of the depth of my failings, especially through deep introspection, I know now that I am only scratching at the surface of an idea that runs to endless depths and I will never see the bottom. In that self-awareness of my brokenness, it has shattered the foundation of my idolatry that ever allows me to look at any other single person as more flawed than me, a shockingly lost sinner with no hope for escape – if it weren’t for the cross and resurrection of the only blameless One (Romans 3:23-24).
I pray that, in reading this post, we all might see freedom that can be found from idolatry that we never see until it painfully humbles us. That is what God has been showing me about myself and I hope that the promise of true rest (not in the context of eternal salvation but in day-to-day relief from distractions from who He really is) has each of us asking God anew today, “have I received Your salvation but not experienced the abundance of life that you provide?” I have always answered that this could never be the case with me… Until I realized that this idea was written especially for the likes of me.
Love you all,
Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff