Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
– Jesus, Matthew 5.6
Recently, I was sitting with a couple pastor-friends in The Oregon Public House while I was on break. We began discussing how churches are in decline, young people are disinterested in Christianity, what this means for their daughter, and ways how her and others’ hearts might be stirred again. I couldn't help feeling like I can relate more with their daughter than with the concern for the church.
I’m a pastor. I like the Church. But I am feeling finished with how our Christian culture has kept its message on Christianity, which has changed and morphed and failed and succeeded, rather than Jesus, Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It’s a culture that I’ve come to identify as “Churchianity.” One example of this is we give answers to questions no one is asking. For instance, what if I don’t care about life after death? Is Jesus still relevant? Here? Now? Prove it!
Churchianity tells us what to believe before learning how to believe. It gives a “first time believers” program that is somehow supposed to be a supplement or fast-track to a relationship with Christ, but usually centers on beliefs about Jesus and historical/biblical events, being present at church, inviting people to church, and volunteering at church. If Jesus was so concerned about what we believe and our spending time at church, why would He waste so much of His time speaking remarkably unclearly with parables and never once inviting or directing people to temple or church?
Believe Me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father
neither [merely] in this mountain nor [merely] in Jerusalem. …
A time will come, however, indeed it is already here, when
the true (genuine) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit
and in truth (reality); for the Father is seeking just such people
as these as His worshipers. God is a Spirit (a spiritual Being)
and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit
and in truth (reality).
– Jesus, John 4.21, 23/24
I’m done learning what and where to believe. Knowledge and context have a tricky way of being domination in disguise. If I can “know” something about God that someone else doesn't, then I can feel that I am in someway above others and in more control of or closer to God than them. It’s an embarrassing confession and kinda sick. I easily use God, theology, experience, and religion as a path to false security by feeling dominant in one way or another. I am (or at least want to be) completely done with that.
I don’t want Christianity anymore. The Christianity I’m talking about is not Jesus’ spirituality or teachings, but the one I’ve come to know as Churchianity. I’m done being told what to believe and being instructed to tell others what to believe, as if right-belief is what Jesus was really concerned with. For the past decade, with each passing year, I’ve become more and more increasingly convinced that Jesus’ emphasis was emphatically how we believe.
How I believe is far more important and significant. How do I believe in an eternal, infinite God who is Love? How do I believe this God is personal and intimate? How do I believe that this God is all and is in all?
And you shall love the Lord your God out of and with your whole heart and out of and with all your soul (your life) and out of and with all your mind (with your faculty of thought and your moral understanding) and out of and with all your strength. This is the first and principal commandment. The second is like the first and is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.
– Jesus, Mark 12.30/31
This is a lot of Love. It breaks my heart when I really sit and consider it. How am I with my wife? How am I with my son? How am I with the my friends? How am I with the strangers who come up to the counter at the pub and order a beer? How am I when I’m mopping the floor at midnight? How am I when I am alone and no one is looking? Are the whole of my heart, soul, mind, and strength being engaged? Am I in Love? Because Jesus is and directs me/us to that place. If I am a Christian, I should be increasingly learning this on an experiential level every day. That is how I believe.
Does how we believe increase relationship with God and love for others (including our “enemies” and those different than us)? If not, I doubt it is actually Jesus we are following but a culture labeling itself with Christianity. That is not the faith Jesus professed. It may even be the antithesis.
I am hungry and thirsty, but not for Christianity; I hunger and thirst for righteousness (uninterrupted intimacy with God; not self-righteousness), of which Jesus is the embodiment. It is my conviction that every single person hungers and thirsts for Christ's righteousness, but the Way has become muddled and overgrown. We need to constantly return to asking, seeking, and knocking.
For everyone who asks and keeps on asking receives; and he who seeks and keeps on seeking finds; and to him who knocks and keeps on knocking, the door shall be opened.
– Jesus, Luke 11.10