Waving Your White Flag
A few years ago, there was a spate of uber-popular Christian books that made the rounds in Church-y circles, and like a number of my pastor friends, I decided I probably needed to read them in order to be able to speak to them properly.
Truth be told, I did get a lot out of those books, and I'm glad I read them, but they did seem a lot like a lot of the popular "self-help" books on the non-fiction bestseller lists--only with Bible verses.
What has since struck me is that most of the authors of the aforementioned books all seemed to be addressing the same kind of issue within the Christian church: How to live the Christian life in a way that is more consistent with Jesus' teachings, and more winsome to people outside the church.
Interestingly, in almost every case the propositions the authors put forward were grounded in the notion that its personal piety that is the key to a more authentic Christian life.
In other words, if you change your habits and get busy doing pious things like praying, reading your Bible daily, attending church, tithing regularly, having faith and the like, you'll get better at this whole Christian thing, and probably at life, too.
Mind you, I've got nothing against any of those disciplines, and I strive to make them a part of my life, but when we narrow the Christian experience to acts of personal piety, it reduces Christianity to a checklist faith, and that's not at all what Jesus wanted for his followers.
Christianity has to be about more than personal piety. And our outward expressions of faith shouldn't be extensions of guilt or motivated by duty. If they are, they risk being inauthentic and harmful to the world.
The pursuit of authenticity in our faith will require us to give up our need for control and our desire for quick fixes. Following a checklist from a book written by some well-known pastor/author might feel good in the short term, but it could very well be a distraction from actually following Jesus... just saying.
I recently read a short poem by Tiffany Aurora that I've been pondering ever since:
The color red/Still bleeds through/That pretend little white flag/You are waving.It seems to me that if we truly want to surrender ourselves to the Way of Christ, we need to do so unequivocally by surrendering our whole selves. We would do so by surrendering our notions of what constitutes truly following Jesus... what it looks like... who is doing it... how it is done...
Sadly, anything short of complete surrender on our part is a red flag to those who are standing outside of Christianity, looking in to see some evidence of Jesus.
May you seek a holistic way of being a Christ-follower that isn't solely grounded in piety but also grounded in love, devotion, wonder, and gratitude. May you surrender to the Way of the Christ and let yourself be shaped by it.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.