by: Rev. Ed Schneider
Not everything connected with a church reflects biblical Christianity. Not everyone who shouts, “Lord! Lord! You are the sustainer and authority of my life,” actually means it.
Authentic, unadulterated, powerful, affirming, enthusiastic and grace-driven Christianity can and should be a readily and universally accessible environment to any searching person who desires the experience to participate fully and faithfully in the love of God. They shouldn’t have to wait until the “other side of glory” to touch a true and vibrant expression of Christianity, and yet far too many people haven’t had the opportunity because of false prophets and teachers, exclusionary philosophies, prideful impostors and self-serving institutions.
Jesus is reportedly to have said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” According to this one saying of Jesus, “the ‘Kingdom” – the physical manifestation of God’s grace in action – can be experienced personally right now. Because of this Gospel declaration, we must no longer limit our view of tangible, passionate and outreaching Christianity to mere existential, philosophical or metaphysical cheap expressions of humanity’s innate searching for ultimate answers of life and death.
Christianity that is true and honest is far broader in scope and depth than merely higher levels of good thinking or ethical outreach. When real Christianity has been experienced it cannot be denied, deluded or delayed. It is an overwhelming quiet and unyielding force that must be reckoned with, regardless of cultural circumstances or individual preferences.
It is the belief of a growing throng that the Christian message of transforming love, divine empowerment and universal inclusion is severely hindered as we literally push people’s perception of God’s kingdom into some far off realm instead of an intimate reality of daily life. Biblical Christianity, as it relates to the kingdom of God, is not just a good idea; it is rather a rock-solid shift in all personal perceptions of life itself and how our lives interact with God and the world in which we live.
To genuinely grasp this understanding, we must take seriously the need to recognize true Christianity from other forms of religious zealotry, cultural bias, spiritual hijacking or outright imposters who dissuade or misdirect what the Bible clearly leads us to know as Christianity. So, where should we begin?
First, it should hold no surprise to some that not every belief, institution or individual person claiming to be a Christian is one. Just because a person or organization boldly professes their “godly” authenticity or authority doesn’t equate to being factual. So, let’s just take a very quick look at the minimum requirements of membership in this eternal fellowship.
Second, we cannot be afraid of trusting God’s input through Scripture itself. Even though modern scholarship has brought many new things to light concerning the Bible’s actual development and authorship, one cannot, nor should not, ignore very specific and foundational criteria laid out within the Divine’s gracious gift of biblical text. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable to lean on Scripture to help define what both authentic and false Christianity looks, sounds and behaves like.
Third, it is within the spirit of Christ that we are foundationally changed and continually transformed so that we experience the newness of life, the power of divine purpose, and the abundance of gracious living and loving, as well as the actual presence of the Divine through our faith in the mission and person of Jesus. If this belief is fundamentally true, then by definition it becomes safe to state that if you don’t accept the life, death and mission of the one true and perfect reflection of the living God, you are not a Christian.
Fourth, the body of believers is presented quite clearly in our Bibles as a reflection of the kingdom of God on earth. For those of us who have been miraculously, supernaturally and ultimately transformed through God’s awakening of unfathomable hope, foundational faith and universally shared love, we are called to reflect the heart of God to each other and to the world around us. We are commanded to do this “divine expression” through a heart that has been revived, reanimated and reconnected to God as evidenced by our acceptance, inclusion, passion, self-sacrifice, boldness of proclamation and urgency to call those who are lost and left out. This urgent calling is extended sincerely no matter what part of the world they may live, what they eat, the music they listen to, how they dress, the language they speak, the education they have acquired, their cultural heritage, their arbitrary racial designation, or even their income and social prominence.
Finally, the “institutional church” and all of its associated memberships are not supposed to be everything to everybody. We may live and exist in our current age but that doesn’t mean we should be spiritually or demonstratively governed by it. Yes, we should absolutely extend the message of a loving, powerful, inclusive and life altering God in any way necessary to provide validity and authenticity; however we are not called to be everything to everybody. Instead, we are challenged by God to offer one very special thing to anyone and everyone so they can discern for themselves whether or not they choose to believe and fully participate in God’s kingdom through the mission of Jesus.
We cannot be afraid any longer of challenging some deliberate fool or deceitful organization’s claim to right, reasonable or authentic Christianity when they continue to perpetrate artificial separation between God’s own diverse humanity.
We can no longer hesitate in telling those who have become engulfed by unyielding hate that they clearly do not represent any aspect of Christian understanding. They don’t. Our silence on the matter is unacceptable and shameful.
We can no longer afford the social experiment of accepting and promoting the “spirit of religious institutions” as the equivalent of the “spirit of God through Christ.” It is not. Truth be told, not only hasn’t this outrageously deceptive agenda worked, in some basic aspects, it has been a disaster to the church’s credibility and mission.
For those of us who understand, stop shaking your heads in frustration and get up off your knees because it is time to stand up and be heard.