A Christianity That Is Real
I personally can't stand Christian movies. The quality is typically garbage, the acting is atrocious, and God is nothing more than some ethical belief. He never shows up or does anything in these movies. But probably the worst part is they are not realistic. People never swear, there is no blood, pain, or scandal and even if there is some suffering, it is heavily muted and watered down.
Our contemporary westernized Christianity is grossly idealistic. Our pastors and leaders preach and teach self-help, moral reform, and the gospel has been reduced to nothing more than a philosophical system. Yet, true Christianity is raw, real, threatening, and potent. God is not a set of doctrines framed and hung in the back of our minds, rather He is present, real, available, and acting on our behalf.
Our true experience of Christian living is not sunshine and roses, but more than often our lives are splattered with paradox and contradiction. We see His light peeking out from behind the mess we have made of our lives. He is there, with us, and we see Him and know Him. He is there with the addict as he pulls the syringe from his arm, cursing himself for breaking a new set of promises. He is there with the single mother, who must decide if seeing an old and familiar John tonight would be better financially than her 12 dollar an hour call center position. He is there with you when you lie to get a better position. He is with us, not judging us, cursing us, or whacking us over the head, but embracing us, nurturing us, and offering His divine guidance, grace, and comfort.
It is how the gospel answers the filthy rawness of life that really excites me, yet it is this very profound reality that is often missing from the communication of the gospel in pulpits across America. We are sold a cartoon gospel, a false idealistic presentation that promises much but it cannot make good on it. We are sold the lie that Jesus will heal every wound, fill our pockets with gold, sedate our fears with heavenly joy, and in the end, everything will be perfect. Indeed in the second coming all suffering and evil will come to an end. This is the Christian hope. But how are we to understand the gospel while we pilgrimage here in this still fallen existence? How are we to relate to God now, when we are told that God will make everything perfect, and true Christians don't sin?
This is the epic failure of the contemporary church. We have created our own gospel, and have abandoned truth. Our christian movies reveal how most of us truly see God: Just a moral or philosophical system and nothing more. God has become an idea and not a person. Or worse a legalistic force. A harsh and inflexible judge bearing down upon us white hot with anger towards our constant moral blunders.
What I love is that the real gospel corresponds to reality. Jesus came to earth in history and died and rose for us. He entered our suffering and took it upon Himself and can relate to our pain. He meets us in our sorrow, hurt, and poor moral choices and comforts us, heals us, and loves us. Does He make all the pain go away? No, but He does use everything we experience and, like a master chef, cooks it all together for good. He isn't the author of our suffering He is indeed the one who leads us out from it and works it all out for our good. Real Christianity answers our real lives. In reality we all stumble, sin, and wreck our lives, but He is there mending things and healing us. He doesn't snap His fingers and remove every stain of evil, but He restores what evil has attempted to mar.
The true gospel is not about God creating morally perfect people. It is not about God defeating every evil opposition now in this age. It is not about God making our lives into some temporal paradise. The real Gospel is about a God of love who gave Himself to pardon a guilty, rebellious, and imperfect people in order to welcome them forever into His loving embrace. Its not about having it all together, trying real hard to be good, or anything like that. Its about humbling ourselves to His love and allowing Him to truly be our Father. This means we actually believe and expect that He is going to show up, and if we don't believe that, then it means trusting Him enough to tell Him that and inviting Him into that place. Christianity is truly a love affair, a living relationship with a Person. The mangled disaster we call our life is met by the goodness and power of our Loving Abba, and we walk this thing out together with Him.