What do we do when God doesn’t fit into our box? It’s very nice to hear about God and build a theology (or an idea about God) based on our nice, easy, American Christianity, but what do we do when God’s ideas don’t match up?
God isn’t an American.
God isn’t a Republican.
God isn’t a Democrat.
God isn’t a Capitalist.
God isn’t a Socialist.
Does your culture inform your Christianity or does your Christianity inform your culture?
Throughout the Bible, we see people who were countercultural; the heroes of faith we hold in high regard were ostracized and shunned by their society because they simply didn’t fit in. Abraham was a moon worshiper and came from a community of moon worshipers. Can you imagine what it would’ve been like for him to go back home for a family reunion? Or what about Daniel, who defied the king’s orders because he knew it contradicted God’s laws? What about Jesus, who was the most countercultural of them all? If we were to compare the life of Jesus to our Americanized Christianity how would it measure up?
God is love.
God is good.
God is gracious.
God is peace.
God is selfless.
How do these match up with how we live our lives? For me, it’s not looking too good. Instead of loving people without limitations, my love and affection is based on certain conditions. Do I like you? Are you nice to me? If so, I can love you pretty easily, but on my terms and only when it’s convenient for me and my schedule. Have you hurt me before? Have you hurt someone I love? If so, I automatically don’t love you. But that contradicts what Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-48:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
This goes completely against what our American culture teaches. We are taught from a very young age about protecting ourselves and others and seeking justice when someone wrongs us. God takes a different stance: forgive even the worst of people; set yourself apart by loving others regardless of what it costs you. Jesus took the Jewish culture, which operated under an “eye for an eye” system, and turned it on its head! Think about the shockwaves this concept sent through their culture!
During Jesus’s time on the earth, there was a huge racial conflict between the Jews and Samaritans. Knowing this, Jesus used a Samaritan as an example of how all Jews were to act and, even today, the word ‘samaritan’ has a very positive connotation, meaning someone who goes out of their way to help the less fortunate. If you were a Jew in the crowd who had learned from a young age to hate this group of people and you heard this story, how would you react? I’m sure the majority were shocked and appalled at Jesus’ story. In today’s society it would be like Jesus telling a story to a bunch of Republican Christians and praising someone of the LGBT community for helping someone while the “Christians” ignored their need. Or Jesus telling an American that a Muslim performed a benevolent action that he wanted the Christian to emulate. Jesus’ words were that controversial!
What Jesus are you following?
Are you following the Jesus depicted in the Bible or the one we’ve created to match up with our American ideals?
These are not easy questions to answer, but ones I feel are necessary. It’s my hope and prayer that we examine our hearts and that the our lives and culture be informed by the Jesus we find in the Bible. I pray that our faith is built upon God alone and not some American ideal. I believe Christians who follow the true Jesus as depicted in the Bible can change the world!