Please if you would help me to see where your heart is.
Much love Tom”.
An extract from a comment below “Observations of the threshold – I am”
For six decades I have been around God and Jesus and The Holy Spirit and churches of all shapes and sizes. Some of my extended family are full-time clergy. My mum and dad spent years bringing church-life home with them. My dad was considered outspoken by a lot of church hierarchies. So our family has a selection of beliefs both of belief and disbelief.
This blog has charted my journey with my God and Jesus – who became God Soft Hands Jesus. Someone I cannot fear. Someone I cannot worship. Not in the church-sense of those words. Because my God has donned Batman outfits. My God has yelled at me. My God has lounged and sprawled with me. My God pitched His very basic bed next to mine. My God speaks the intimate language both of those who have belief and disbelief. My God seems to change despite it being me who changes. My God is constant despite me being not. My God is real. My bible is real. My faith is real.
The one constant other than my God?
Good people. Honest people. Caring people. People who are journeying as I am. As my mum and dad journeyed. As those of belief and disbelief journey still. But for those called Christians they journey with a bible that is central to that journey. A bible that is a road map to the narrow gate. A bible which is also the rule book. A rule book that used to be mostly rules but is now a book of love. But remains a book of love that needs rules. Rules of who can be saved and who cannot. Of faith that is never enough. Not for your ordinary run-of-the-mill Christian. A book of relationship. The needs weekly affirmation. Corporate affirmation. Tithing affirmation. Behaviour affirmation. Institutional affirmation.
Along the way I keep meeting people of belief who say something is missing. Who say we seem more focused on socialising than much else. Who say we really enjoy church but it is very samey. Who cannot imagine faith without church. Who accept church. Who put up with church. Who go to church their whole lives and still feel outsiders. Who work at church and find fellowship elsewhere. Who talk with passion of fellowship. But never with passion of church. Other than what church could be – should be.
I keep meeting people who have “settled” for church. Full-time shepherds no less than church volunteers. Scratch the surface is to find how many “settle” for what church gives in response to what they (used to) have to offer. I see a “settling” for religious-faith (which requires knowing where faith leads). I see church(es) preaching inclusivity by excluding those they cannot agree should be included. I see churches preaching love yet driven by selected fragments of Old Testament law because “the bible says so”.
Like slavery. Like dietary restrictions, Like sacrificial blood-letting. Like all the rules we deem ourselves better than. More humane than. Yet we continue to keep tight hold of the ones we don’t want to dump. And dump those we inclusively exclude in the name of love.
I have met people here who talk freely. Who are accepted. Yet I rarely met those people in church(es). For as long as I can remember it seemed that the service of church required one to pretend. To always be okay. To be coping. And I have always found that talking about a living and loving relationship with God Soft Hands Jesus makes church(es) uncomfortable. My dad found the same four decades ago.
This threshold – this doorway – I see as an institutional reality. When you settle for second-best, it is part of the package. When you settle for faith that needs to know the answer, it is part of the same package. And when that “package” results in a tradition of fear of intimacy (with the most benevolent being I know) – that makes me weep.
But challenging this settled-for tradition is always met with “don’t rock the boat”. Along with a defensive counter-attack that this new style of church service has seen three new families … That this other style of new church service has this one chap who never comes to any other … And that if I actually attended I would see for myself how much is changing.
Guilt and Fear. Don’t rock the boat.
These are the same people who say they have settled for second best over the years. Who can still feel an outsider after decades. Who talk about the institution of church(es) and the expected demise of the institution in years to come.
“Paul … Please if you would help me to see where your heart is.”
Tom, my heart struggles. When I snuggle with the bride of Christ I feel like I am settling for second best. When I voice that struggle I feel guilty for not being “loving enough”. And all the time I keep meeting those of faith(s) or no faith(s) who live and love without all “the strings attached”. Who love because that is who they are. Not because that is what they have been told to be. People who have faith that something or someone will “take care of the details” – who don’t need to have agreement before taking a first step.
But mostly my heart struggles because I believe that to follow my God is not about saving people. I believe that talking and walking the walk is about love. Of God and of me and of you no less than me. Which brings me back to my dilemma with the bible. And what we seem to have made the bible. My own imagery? A “religious taser”.
Which brings me full circle back to fear and yesterday’s post.
I believe that it should not be this way. I now believe there is no doorway or threshold. That the spiritual world is not scary. Not when you know GSHJ is stronger. I believe that hearing God speak is not scary. Not when you know GSHJ. And I believe that giving my life to God is not a biggie. Not when I know God Soft Hands Jesus like I know GSHJ.
I desire that we cease teaching those of belief and disbelief that those of belief serve a God of rules. That we cease teaching that being rewarded is the reason why those of belief serve. And we cease teaching fear of the consequences of that serving. For that is to teach a God that is to be feared.
A God equipped with a deadly taser.