I like that Christianity is not an easy religion. It is one that does not give us all the answers, but rather, it gives us the tools to search for them. I always reflect on the story of Jacob, because I consider him the most perplexing Biblical character. In spite of his deceit, his trickery, his weakness, and his audacity, he was one of the three Patriarchs, honored by generation after generation. He was beloved by God, but he was the least admirable of the Patriarchs. Hamlet might make a better hero than him. But God chose Jacob, and that is a concept for me to wrestle with.
I’m going to talk about a few of the aspects of Christianity that I find incredible, and I’m adding in quotes from a book on Jacob by Madeleine L’Engle, called A Stone for a Pillow. Unfortunately, I can’t remember what book the first quote is from.
I have become wary of any brand of Christianity that offers easy answers or thinly disguised rules, or when solutions to problems are proffered the moment the anguish is verbalized. I also think of those who are afflicted and crushed in spirit, and how glibly others write off their turmoil and question their loyalties when they take too long to come out of their sorrow. Christianity allows time for mourning and sorrow and doesn’t require a short amount of time spent in it. It only asks that we learn and reflect in our sorrow, but we have our time to grieve.
What I believe is so magnificent, so glorious, that it is beyond finite comprehension. To believe that the universe was created by a purposeful, benign Creator is one thing. To believe that this Creator took on human vesture, accepted death and mortality, was tempted, betrayed, broken, and all for love of us, defies reason. It is so wild that it terrifies some Christians who try to dogmatize their fear by lashing out at other Christians, because tidy Christianity with all answers given is easier than one which reaches out to the wild wonder of God’s love, a love we don’t even have to earn.
It’s a religion that allows me time, flexibility, and peace to think and understand. It gives me a safe place to voice my emotions, however ugly they may be, because I am not condemned by them any longer. I can shout, scream, rant, rave as much as I like, but I am not prohibited from verbalizing my emotions. I can wrestle all I want.
God can take my most fumbling, faltering prayers and make something lovely of them. Jacob had to learn that prayer is not bargaining with God. He had to learn that the God he finally decided to accept as his own was not a God who could be tamed.
It gives me principles and wisdom, rather than a list of regulations. It forces me to struggle with questions, rather than giving me easy but unsatisfying answers. It’s a religion that preaches listening before thinking and understanding before preaching.
If we want to play it safe, we have to settle for a comfortable religion, one which will not permit questions, because questions are universe-disturbers…If we don’t allow questions, we can fool ourselves into thinking that we are capable of defining God.
I have no doubts about the majesty, glory, or sovereignty of God, nor of the value that is inherent to life. He placed a value so high on life that only the purest form of life, represented in the shedding of blood, was satisfactory enough to redeem a multitude of lives.
If we truly understand what Jesus was saying, we know that what matters is not moralism, but understanding that God with infinite grace can work goodness through us. Goodness is of God; we cannot make ourselves good through an act of will.
It allows me the freedom to sit and consider another’s thoughts and to examine all angles of an issue. I am wary of any community that promotes “discussion” as thinly disguised proselytizing, that welcomes comments for a moment then proceeds to give a canned answer. None of this means that I do not believe in absolute truth; on the contrary, I relish it. It gives a foundation and grounding to my life. While there is a place for correction and teaching, there is also a place for questioning and contemplation. Far too often is one prized above the other.
Scripture asks us to look at Jacob as he really is, to look at ourselves as we really are, then realize this is who God loves. God did not love Jacob because he was a cheat, but because he was Jacob. God loves us in our complex isness, and when we get stuck on the image of the totally virtuous and morally perfect person we will never be, we are unable to accept this unqualified love, or to love other people in their rich complexity.
What are your impressions of Christianity, Christians, or Christian communities that you’ve observed or been involved in? What have you liked, and what have you disliked? What conclusions did you come to?