Shedding The Baggage: Be Like JesusPosted: July 2, 2017
“(I)s the Christian view of the world to be optimistic or pessimistic? If it is essentially evil, then creation is to be beaten into submission to the will of God. If it is good, then it is to be worked with and honoured as something sacramental, in which we can see the hand of the one who created it.”
—John Finney, in “Recovering The Past – Celtic and Roman Mission.”
I came to faith in Jesus in 1979 at age twenty four. My spiritual journey from that point was rooted in evangelicalism, first in a baptist church, but the first church I was really involved in was much more Charismatic. I was placed in a leadership role, which is to say the pastor attempted to remake me in his own image. He was Calvinist, and trained me in that way. So, like most evangelicals, I developed a strong sin consciousness. My radar was tuned to immediately pick up not only sin, but that even more dastardly enemy, heresy.
Many, many years I continued in that state, until I came across a monthly newsletter that a friend of mine subscribed to (newsletters still came in the mail in those days) which was filled with four pages of various heresies du jour. I devoured that newsletter and subscribed to it myself.
After several months, I began to get uneasy. All this ministry did was sniff out what they considered to be heresies. Besides the fact that some of the beliefs or practices they found heretical I found to be biblical, I began to wonder; in the day we all stand before God, will this fault finding be accounted to them as good fruit?
It’s strange to me now to think that it took me so long to see the parallel between such a mindset and that of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. But that was not the end of my sin consciousness. It continued for many more years. It began to crumble around 2006 and the dismantling picked up speed when I began doing formal evangelism the following year. I had already begun to see that identifying and pointing out faults in others was not helpful. I began to be exposed to people who believed what is, for Jesus people, possibly the most inarguable truth about humanity – that we are all created in the image of our Maker – and their approach to evangelism was to identify what looks like God, whether in individuals, communities, institutions, etc., and focus on it. Because what you focus on, you magnify. If you focus on the negatives in your spouse, they will multiply. If you focus on the positives, they will multiply.
That which looks like God, in an individual etc., is called the Imago Dei – the image of God. There is nothing under the sun which does not carry something of the Imago Dei, even if it’s only a speck, even if I can’t see it – and if I can’t, perhaps there’s something wrong with my “eyes”.
The “total depravity” of man taught by Calvinists had completely dissipated from my belief system. What a relief to learn that I myself am not totally depraved!
I have just finished listening to a YouTube Christian radio program featuring several people who have either been to or are interested in the phenomenon of “transformational festivals”, like Burning Man. As someone who ministers in those settings, I found it pretty refreshing. They are truly seeking to understand everything they could about the subject, and they actually know a lot. They were generous and loving in their remarks about the events themselves and about the people who attend. Even so, there were those vestiges of the evangelical sin consciousness evident in their language.
I understand fully how deeply ingrained these attitudes are, so I have no desire to be critical of those people. My purpose in mentioning it is that I wish, hope, and pray that we can break the habit. It has always been the offspring of a bad theology, which I myself have only escaped through grace. But it is more crucial to shed this baggage, which generations before us have laid on our well-meaning shoulders, at this very exciting, post-modern, post-Christian time in history. As Jesus followers (and, sad to say, not all Christians are Jesus followers), we have much to offer a rapidly changing world. But not if we keep trying, even inadvertently, to lay burdens on people we ourselves have failed to bear. Therefore, we must first unburden ourselves.
“(I)s the Christian view of the world to be optimistic or pessimistic?” If we have any trust in God at all, optimism can be the only answer, and the world, and people in it, we must treat with honor, and we must recognize the hand of their Creator in them. Trust me, it is there. It is always there.