There are echoing words of one mother who said to my husband and I “No one has answered him these questions before.” We had the privilege of meeting this family, just a few months ago. The parents had long been raising their kids in the church setting. The oldest boys were about college age, so after nearly two decades in the church system setting, there were unanswered questions. The oldest son(s) had their questions about life and God and how are some of things to even be reconciled or what does it mean. It was a normal day in the life of my husband and I, expect for those haunting words that came later. Those words have place within us a beautiful unforgettable wound, which we often consider.
In the Bible, when Jesus shows up in the public eye and starts his ministry of preaching and teaching there are these shocking words that say: “They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority.”
Seriously? They were astonished at Jesus, because he spoke with authority? These people had many teachers of the law, religious leaders, priest, and scribes among them and out of all those people, you mean to tell me that the new amazing things was that Jesus spoke with authority?
Of course this phrase “spoke with authority” meant that Jesus seemed like he really knew the heart of it all. I wasn’t just repeating some other teachers which he had learn from, although it is historically accounted that Jesus quoted other teachers, writers, prophets, and the like. But even when he did, apparently there was still something amazing about it coming from Jesus.
In one sense, I love that! Who, as Christian, doesn’t love the idea that Jesus words were profound and heart-touching?
Yet in another sense, I hate that so much too. Where were all the teachers of the Torah? What were all the Pharisee, Sadducees, Zealots, and Essenes doing at that time? How in a time where they were hoping and expecting the Messiah to come did all of these teachings only boil down to man-made traditions that didn’t have authority? Since when do the people of God not have relevance, intelligence, insight, and more? What’s going on here?
One reason I hate this phrase: “They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority” is because it’s so easy to relate to today. We have so much access to information, we have thousands of Christian authors, millions of pastors, billions of believers, and yet we hemorrhaging in the Body of Christ.
“Your wound is incurable,
your injury beyond healing.
There is no one to plead your cause,
no remedy for your sore,
no healing for you.”
What’s happening with us? Why as Christians do we live in a time were children can spend two decades in the church system and have no one answer their questions? Why do we live in an age were the older generations have damned the younger generations, and don’t care if they walk away from “the church” which is supposedly the only life source, and in exchange the feelings are nearly mutual and bitterness has taken root? Why are people obsessed with ideas of revival and rapture, but have little to no instinct in caring for creation? Why are statistics the stories we speak about as if we do not know people themselves?
How long can this all last without becoming total decay and death?
Statistics don’t matter, because they are numbers added together. I write stories from my own life, because Life matters. People matter. Daily grind matters, because it’s a step …and because it’s part of our real lives.
We are the stories of which history is compiled from. St Paul argues: “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence we have through Christ before God.”
When we get into something like Christianity and Christian living, or if you develop an interest in God, you need to understand that the spiritual does not obscure the tangible. Theoretically it illuminates what is real about the tangible, and therefore makes it more authentic than before.
If I say I care about God and God is important to me, but then I justify treating my husband like dirt because I was having a bad day… then I’m probably just a regular jerk, and my supposed belief in God has no effect on helping me see what is real.
However, if I treat my husband like dirt and then I realize there’s undealt with issue between us and merely gets to hide itself in “bad day” excuse, then I’ve let God illuminate my darker places and so me a deeper reality. …and I’ll probably need to apologize to my husband and see if he’s willing to talk things out. (This happens, thankfully not today…yet. Marriage is great!)
The point is if we’re so very interested in and focused on God (like many Christians may claim) then we ought to be seeing the people that are in front of us, and not merely numbers or trends. We need to be hearing and remembering stories about people and allow ourselves to be touched by their lives and comments, and not just statistics, scores, and popular sayings.
If we want to be people who wear the title of being a Christian, which has unfortunately become an ugly thing in recent decades, then we need to individually be responsible for being someone who God would be proud of. And I surely don’t mean that we should be more Christianized, but instead we have to do the footwork, we have to know what does God himself approve of? What does God detest? What is God’s heart truly like?
We have the possibility and potential to know these truths. We also have the possibility and current privilege to be ignorant and noncommittal. We have choice. “Not knowing isn’t an excuse for those who are willing to learn”
The point is, we can’t just merely continue in traditions just because they are traditions. We can’t just perpetuate a system just because its still running (so far). There needs to be reality behind all this good-on-paper traditions. Then when there is reality, when there is truth, when we do see tangible people through spiritual clarity, then we’ve have opportunity to be a part of something that is God-created and God-approved. and that’s cool! That’s where the roots of Christianity come from.
When we live amoungst a people who have a wound beyond curing and injury beyond healing, I imagine it’s well-past time to reconsider what we’re doing and why we do it. When people can spend two decades or more in a church system and just learn the same thing over and over & over again, but not answer questions of a younger generation, then there’s a problem. A big problem. We need to check our pulse, and we need to heal that which isn’t dead.
“Woe to the shepherds who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; ”
“For thus says the Lord God: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day”
“They will know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them. They will no longer be plundered by the nations, nor will wild animals devour them. They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid.”
Ezekiel chapter 34