I am on a vocation-cation in sunny, hot, scorching West Texas. I came here to socially distance see my mom in celebration of her upcoming 80th birthday. I also came for the food, specifically the chicken-fried steaks and breakfast tacos, so there’s that. In the meantime, I am trying to avoid rattlesnakes, scorpions, and armadillos. So far, so good.
Oh, and cactus and water moccasins. Yesterday evening my sister and her husband took me to their new property just outside of San Angelo, Texas where they will build a new house. It is 13 acres of cacti and mesquite trees. But at the backend of their property is the “mighty” Concho River with a spillway. Other than the occasional snake I saw plenty of old gar playing near the spillway.
Today, I want to continue my Wednesdays @ Whenever about Whatever series by focusing on Philip Gulley’s book, If the Church Were Christian: Rediscovering the Values of Jesus. He makes ten solid points in his book. I have only covered the first two, each of the last two weeks.
His first point is: If the Church were Christian Jesus would be a model for living rather than an object of worship. His second point is: If the Church were Christian affirming our potential would be more important than condemning our brokenness.
Because we don’t need to spend another eight weeks belaboring each point Gulley makes in this book, I will try to make more progress today and cover as many points as I possibly can, with very brief commentary on each one. So, here we go:
Point #3: If the Church were Christian reconciliation would be valued over judgment. Now, granted, you and I can’t help making judgments about things. We do this naturally and necessarily. The ability to judge such things as right from wrong or someone’s character or intentions is necessary to navigate the journey of life. We would be in big trouble if we couldn’t judge things. I mean, how would you vote, for example?
But judgment, from a Christian perspective, is only the first step. Judgment needs to be followed up with reconciliation. After all, that’s what God did. God’s judgement in scripture is always followed by God’s reconciliation. We should do the same . . . if we want to be Christian.
Point #4: If the Church were Christian gracious behavior would be more important than right belief. Again, no one is denying that what we believe is important. Christianity, like any other religion or philosophical system, is not an empty shelf. We can’t just fill up that shelf with whatever we feel like. There is a place for orthodoxy or right belief (and good luck trying to figure that out).
But right belief, from a Christian perspective, is, once again, only the first step. Orthodoxy or right belief needs to be followed up with orthopraxy or right behavior. And, in order for the Church to be Christian, gracious behavior stands over and above all the right thinking we can possibly muster. We need to temper our belief systems with gracious behavior.
What does gracious behavior look like, you might ask? Well, it looks like unconditional love, compassion, sympathy, gratitude, forgiveness—all those sorts of things. Believing in the right doctrine is one thing; doing the right thing is another.
Point #5: If the Church were Christian inviting questions would be valued more than supplying answers. In the world of faith and religion, “answers” are overrated. We are educated, of course, to seek answers, but before one can get to an answer one needs to ask a question.
Somewhere along the way in my educational journey, I learned that asking the right questions is more important that finding the right answers. After all, we could be asking the wrong questions, which leads to answers that don’t matter.
I’ll never forget something I heard Bryan McLaren say on more than one occasion. At the end of his speaking engagements I have heard him say, “Rather than a Q & A session, let’s have a Q & R session—a “Question and Response” session, because I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a few responses.”
Jesus himself seemed to teach in a way that led to more questions rather than more answers because he knew that this is the only way to keep growing. And if the Church wants to be Christian, it needs to do the same.
Point #6: If the Church were Christian encouraging personal exploration would be more important than communal uniformity. Think for yourself. Question authority. Don’t believe everything you’re told. A Church that doesn’t allow its people to have individual freedom of thought based on a little-known notion called “soul competency,” is a Church that has started walking down the road toward cult-hood. Don’t allow your Church to turn into a cult. Do allow your people to find their own path and do their own exploring.
I think that’s enough for today. I have to go rattlesnake hunting, shop for Mexican pottery, and find a good taco. Adios!