Authentic Christianity

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  August 24, 2013

Sometimes Christians do not understand what it is to be a Christian. Consequently, we express a religion that is rooted in fear, driven by control, lived through shame, and focused on building a church in our own image. Yet such was never the faith Jesus Christ desired for those of us who call upon his name.
The Bible says repeatedly that we are not to be afraid. When confronted with challenges and experiences that could potentially evoke fear, the message of Jesus Christ remains unchanged. Where there is God’s love, there is no fear. Yet, for so many Christians, fear becomes the chief tool by which share the Gospel, live our own lives, or convince others to believe. Christians wring their hands in fearful dread over the world and what it is coming to in these modern days. Some Christians literally try to scare people into accepting Christ by highlighting horrific nightmares and eternal suffering should one not believe and behave as we presume one should. Cultivating a climate of fear does very little to convey God’s love.
            Some Christians are also prone to destructively controlling behaviors. In Matthew 20, Jesus cautions the disciples against controlling behavior. Loving service is Christ’s way of witnessing. Yet, too often in Christian leadership and witness, we mistakenly fall into the trap of holding so tightly to the message, information, people, ritual, and process that we completely fail to bring forth the love of Christ in the faith we presume to represent. We become the very tyrants that Jesus warns us not to emulate.
            When we live in fear, the desire to control others comes naturally and when people fail to meet the particular and controlling standards a fear-based religion deems necessary. Frequently we tend to shame people into obedience. Again, it is a perverse distortion of God’s love for all the world. Countless people are permanently hostile to, and completely turned off from Christianity, simply because of the disgraceful behaviors of people who presumed to be preaching salvation and were, in all reality, spewing out unholy shame and guilt. The very purpose of the Cross was to remove our shame and guilt because God loved the world enough to make it happen. There is then, no justification for Christians taking up the evil weapon of shame and reapplying it to others simply because they do not experience faith exactly as some think it should be experienced.
            Fear, control, and shame are tools that have been used to build the church for nearly two thousand years now. Christians use them because we falsely believe they get results. After all, after two millennia now, the church is still here. Yet Jesus never called us to build the church. He is the church builder. Jesus calls us to disciple people—to teach, lead, witness, and minister by example lived in God’s love.
            In many ways the church is more irrelevant than it has been in all of history. Passionately dysfunctional politics, the often psychotic cyber world of social media, our addictive attachment to sensationalized network news, and our egotistical compulsion toward consumerism have usurped the purity of God’s sacred and loving message in the church. In many ways Christians view the church as a place to meet our needs, rather than serve God. We tend to practice our religion to control others and make a world that we want for ourselves, rather than serve a world where God is supreme and reconciling the world to himself.
            What is at the heart of our faith? Is it fear? Control? Shame? A need to build a church God will accept? Or, do we simply live in God’s love?