The quote below was written by a Jewish rabbi and theologian in 1955—thats two years after I was born. And yet, this process has continued, not just for Judaism, but also for Western Christianity.
I hear complaints all the time about the decline of Christian influence in the societies of western culture. by Christians who blame it on increased secularism, the agenda of cultural elites, and the distortion of media for its losses, but we really need look no further than a mirror that reflects how we’ve taken the wonder of the Gospel and reduced it to another human-engineered religion.
It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion – its message becomes meaningless.
Abraham Joshua Heschel in God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism
The Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be consigned to a creed, a discipline, or a habit; it is a real relationship with the Living God and when it loses that, it has nothing left to offer those around it. As G.K. Chesterton wrote in 1910, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” (What’s Wrong with the World)
When I read voices from the past challenging the irrelevance of our faith so clearly, I am amazed they had no impact. These are not obscure quotes. They are very well known, but nonetheless ignored, and the wonder of the Gospel is even more obscured in our culture today, far more by the emptiness of our religious structures than anything the world has done.
What the world needs to see is not more religion, but a people won into the love of a gracious Father, learning to walk alongside him in the unfolding circumstances of life, and being so transformed over time that in word and character they are gracious and compassionate to all, with no need to manipulate those around them, forgiving when wronged, aware of the needs of others and willing to lay down their lives for the good of another.
That’s the kingdom Jesus foresaw and its one most of the people in our day have yet to see.
5 thoughts on “Who Is to Blame?”
Almost 100 years ago E Stanley Jones wrote:
“Our present day Christianity; anemic and weak from the parasites that have fastened themselves on its life through the centuries, needs a blood transfusion from the Sermon on the Mount in order to renew within it the radiant health it has lost. The church must throw off the parasites and arise, and serve and save a lost world”.
“Instead of the principals of Christianity staying linked to the standards of the Be-attitudes, they tend to be linked to the standards of the world, failing to be effective because they shift backwards in order to try to be relevant and therefore become irrelevant”.
Heaven and the world are waiting for extraordinary people to arise from the church with wisdom, insight and power. Knowing our God, and living on the “Precarious Edge of Faith” are necessary for us to advance beyond our current condition.
This has been the revelation to and the cry of my heart for the last several years, but increasingly so in the last weeks/months. There is a darkness far more insidious than the usual suspects (cults, Democrats/Republicans, abortionists, etc.) we so readily identify with our condemnation/judgement. When we embrace and worship a creed or a man or a ritual at the expense of falling in love with a Jesus that wants us to discover the freedom of living loved, we deserve the miserable life we purchase. And we have little to offer a world that is weary of empty promises and pat answers. Contrarily, it would only take a very few who have learned to live loved and go with the flow of the Spirit to make a steady and significant difference in the neighborhood where they deploy.
Nearly five decades ago God intersected my life when I was not even aware that I was looking for Him. Jesus was very alive during those first few years. But slowly and incrementally, without even my being aware of it, Jesus was being replaced in me by the religion of what the world knows as Christianity. I am not in the criticizing or blame game business any longer because I was really the one who let it happen. I tried very hard to be and do what a Christian was “supposed” to be like but I just could not meet the expectations that I and others placed on me. One day I broke under this burden and uttered words out loud that seemed blasphemous at the time but changed my life almost instantly. My wife was shocked at when she heard me say these words “I will never go to church again, I will never be a christian again, if fact I quit being a christian right now, I will never be a christian again, if I ever am one again it will be Jesus doing it and I am not going to help Him”. I awoke the next morning and the presence of Jesus was back in my Life. I hope these few words will bring encouragement to any that may read them. It is really only the Lord Jesus who can live the kind of Life our Father in heaven has for us. Lets put away the Martha style of noisily serving our Lord and take up the Mary style of silently sitting in His presence and hearing him. Lets show all those who are in our world that Jesus is Alive and available to all who call upon Him with sincerity of heart. Truly Christianity was never meant to become a religion but a relationship with the Living God. What a privilege.
That was the Truth, The Whole Truth, and nothing but the
Truth, so help us God.
Whittaker Chambers was attending a Quaker meeting after he became a Christian. One Sunday, he was disappointed at the lack of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the meeting. He expressed his disappointment to an older lady, who replied to him, “Thee brings that meeting with the, brother Whittaker.”
Have each of us prayed before going to church for the Holy Spirit to take over the meetings and services? I know I haven’t.
Have we prayed that the Holy Spirit would take over our own minds? I know I haven’t even done that.
This isn’t a program. This is prayer. Let’s do it.
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