My way or the highway

I am a follower of Jesus, an Executive Director of a national ministry, a student of theology, and an occasional pastor. For the last two decades my underlying motivations and curiosities have revolved around two biblical ideas. The first, Jesus’ prayer that the Kingdom of God could be a reality on earth as it is in heaven. And second, that God so loved the world. As it turns out these are attractive ideas and passages for most Christians. It could be argued that the Lord’s Prayer and John 3:16 are the most universally recognized parts of scripture.

The attractiveness of these ideas begins to fall apart once we start asking questions. What does the world, and particularly the church, look like when it lives in such a way that heaven and earth are the same? Who is all included in this world that God so loved?

I doubt that it is possible to fully answer these questions in one blog, especially when the church has been trying for 2,000 years. The journey towards loving the world that God loves and living on earth as in heaven can be painful and upsetting, mostly because God doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of respect for our values, rules, or theology.

One of the ways that people of faith have dealt with these passages is to “help” God with the definitions and procedures. It usually goes something like this: yes, God sent God’s Son for the whole world, but if you really want to be included then you need to pray the right prayer, believe like we do, and follow our rules for being a Christian. Living on earth as in heaven means you have to accept “our” understanding of what it means to be a Christian.

I understand why we create rules for living and statements of faith. It helps us to make God more palatable and manageable. Quite frankly it is simpler to be together and worship together if we are all the same. This need to define and contain God is an ancient practice. In John 8 the religious leaders bring a women caught in adultery to Jesus for judgment. Their motives were pure, they wanted a faith that honored God and followed the rules. Jesus just didn’t have the same need for rules designed to control God. For the most part fundamentalism grows out of an honest desire to do right by God. The problem with fundamentalism is that it quickly leads to a “my way or the highway” mentality.

I am part of a denomination that is working through its understanding of sexual orientation. There are those who say if you don’t agree with me, then you are wrong. This is just another way of someone saying I have figured out the box that God belongs in and if you don’t agree with me than you clearly don’t know who God is.

This brings me back to the Kingdom of God on earth and the world that God loves. Whenever people of faith have attempted to define and limit what this is they have gotten themselves in trouble. The truth is that the image of God that we all reflect presents a pretty diverse portrait. Like the apostle Paul, all of us are looking at the Kingdom of God through a glass dimly.

I make no claims to fully understanding who is and is not included, but I suspect that living on earth as it is in heaven means that I need to be open to including, worshipping with, and loving even those with whom I disagree.

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3 Comments

Filed under A New Kind of Christian, being wrong, Beloved Community, Christian, church, church rules, confessions of faith, denominations, distinctives, diversity, God questions, ideologies, kingdom of heaven, Lord's Prayer, ministry, multicultural, political debate, politics, purity, religion, religious system, theology, transforming, Uncategorized, wisdom

3 responses to “My way or the highway

  1. Afriend in Christ

    Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. http://bible.com/114/jhn.14.6.nkjv

    Jesus is the only way to the kingdom! This would exclude everyone who tries to get in by any other way, so it is His way or the highway. This statement made by Jesus can sound extremely exclusive, and it is, but when we understand that there is only one way, it should motivate us to show others the way if we truly care for them. If we believe that there are many different ways to enter the Kingdom then we begin to “tolerate” other beliefs that contradict the Bible. It’s not intolerant, or hateful to make a claim that there’s only one way to enter the Kingdom, it’s loving and true, and it’s our responsibility to bring truth to the world.

    • “Jesus is the only way to the Kingdom!” This statement has been used in various forms of manipulation for power and control of people, either intentional or unintentional. Culture, world view, education, and church denomination play an integral role in how we view God. So my Jesus and how I interpret the bible for my relationship with God can be totally different than your Jesus and your theology. One isn’t better than the other. The potential danger in the statement “Jesus is the only way to the kingdom” is saying the way I think of Jesus is the only way to the Kingdom. This statement walks closely on the line of manipulation and misinformation. Which essentially becomes “MY (belief of God) way or the highway”!!
      We are not called to be kingdom monitors or fruit inspectors! God doesn’t tell us to be concerned with one way or several ways to His kingdom. This amongst other things is what the teachers of the law, Sadducees and Pharisees bickered about. These were the people that Jesus rebuked and turned their beliefs upside down.
      We are called to Love God and Our Neighbor! and spread the Gospel! the Good News that God loves us so much he gives us grace through Jesus!
      God tolerates us so I will tolerate the others. I don’t want to the job of who is in and who is out. I am glad God didn’t give me this responsibility. Loving your neighbor is hard enough!

      • Afriend in Christ

        The question still remains, If your “Jesus” contradicts my Jesus then which one is the true Christ? The bible tells us that many ” christs” will come in the last days, and while we aren’t “fruit inspectors” the bible does say that we will know them by their fruit. I’m never in favor of holding people out of the Kingdom, or letting them in by my standards, that would be wrong. The thing that we should all do, is be on our guard, for many will come in the last days claiming to be followers of Christ, but we know them by their fruit. Thank God for his word, his love, his grace! If I believed in a God that contradicted himself, I wouldn’t be a Christain, why follow a God who I couldn’t trust?

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