Would Your Church Welcome Jesus?
During one of my "rabbit hole" explorations on a topic for a sermon recently, I got to reading some quotes by the late Rich Mullins.
Mullins was an aclaimed Christian musical artist in the late 80s and early 90s, who wrote songs like, "Awesome God," "My Deliverer," "Hold Me Jesus," and "Creed," all of which won multiple awards.
But Mullins withdrew from the mainstream Contemporary Christian Music industry late in his career, and his music and writing took on a decidedly different kind of tone.
He was highly critical of what had become of Evangelical Christianity, and was a kind of prophet who began to foresee how the marriage between Evangelicals and right wing politics could lead to a kind of Christianity that didn't seem to follow Jesus.
Mullins died in a car crash in 1997, and at his memorial Amy Grant described him as the "uneasy conscience of Christian music."
One of Mullins' prescient quotes about the state of Christianity really resonated with me, and I'd like to share it here:
Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in a beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved, and Jesus loved the poor, and Jesus loved the broken-hearted.
Interestingly, that quote and others like it would have gotten Mullins publicly blackballed by Evangelical Christianity and the Christian music industry if he'd made it in our current culture.
As it was, in the mid-90s he did receive his fair share of criticism, buy by then he'd already withdrawn fro the limelight.
I can't imagine the excoriating comments it would have garnered on social media and the internet now---fueled by infuriated Christians who couldn't believe that one of their own would say such a thing.
Actually, I can imagine it. Because it's happened a lot in the past few years. Christian artists like Phil Keaggy, Michelle Branch, Switchfoot, Amy Grant, Lauren Daigle and many more have been "cancelled" by mainstream Christianity for expressing views that call the politics of Evangelicalism into question.
There are also scores of pastors and authors who have been ostracized, fired, lost speaking engagements, and the like for doing the same. I'm thinking of people like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Jen Hatmaker, Sarah Bessey, and so many more.
Like Mullins, these artists and creators had the temerity to actually ask why so many Christians seemed to be more in love with politics than with Jesus. Further, they pushed back against forms of Christianity that excluded more than included.
And for many of them it cost them their careers.
Interestingly, Jesus faced cancellation by the religious leaders of his day. They couldn't believe that he would teach that God's love was extended to everyone, even those outside their circle.
These religious leaders also were incensed that Jesus took apart the ridiculous nature of their rules, regulations, doctrines and dogmas that actually kept people from drawing closer to God.
So they constantly tried to discredit Jesus, demean him, catch him out and spread all kinds of lies, innuendo and the like to diminish his influence. And then when none of that seemed to work, they had him killed.
I have to wonder, if Jesus showed up today preaching the very things that we see in the Gospels, would mainstream Christianity call him a heretic, and reject him?
And how many of us would really be drawn to his words and his teachings, particularly the uncomfortable parts about letting go of our materialism, eschewing power and status, giving ourselves away for the sake of the shalom of God in the world?
Those of us who call ourselves Jesus-followers ought to think deeply about these kinds of things. We have an opportunity in this divided and often completely messed-up world we live in to shine the light of Jesus, and to love as Jesus loved.
Let's not squander that moment because we're too afraid to follow the One we claim to follow.
May it be so for us all, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all now and forever. Amen.