There are so many reasons to not take a hard look at the heart of Christianity.
I know it, and you know it. It’s simple to find reasons to dismiss it. You’ve likely grown up in a culture that feels familiar with the religious practices of “Christianity,” and maybe you’ve rejected it or just set it aside while you went about real life because it seems irrelevant. But what if a second look—an honest look at the real, spiritual roots of Jesus himself and his real followers—might lead you to different thinking?
Today we are enamored with interesting notions of spirituality, anti-establishment messages, and unique ways of living (tiny house anyone?). We love an individual who walks to the beat of a mysterious rhythm that no one else seems to hear. This was exactly how Christians were perceived in their ancient cultures. They were unique, spiritual people who carried with them fascinating, powerful, and weird spiritual practices. So, yeah, you might have loved it. Or at least wanted to know more.
During the first century, Christianity sounded like crazy talk. They just wouldn’t shut up about all kinds of supernatural, spiritual things: a God who sent his Son to earth to exist as both human and man and die on purpose, the existence of a Spirit who raised things from death, a Spirit who told people secrets they shouldn’t know and gave special abilities they shouldn’t have and gave authority in an invisible spiritual realm and over demons. Demons! That’s lit (as my sixth grader would say). But now, Christianity sounds a little bit different. It sounds moralistic, a little bit racist, a little bit misogynistic, a little bit homophobic, and a lot hypocritical. I hear it, too, and it’s difficult and embarrassing to try to reconcile that with the real, deep, gracious spirituality that Jesus brought. But what if Christianity hasn’t lost its true spirituality in the world of crappy American religious or political talk? What if you stopped looking at “Christianity” and looked for real followers of Jesus?
I bet you think the days are gone when the people who followed Jesus were known for adopting the baby girls left out in deserts to die. Or who risked their lives to take care of people in plagues. Or who started schools and hospitals because faith in Jesus meant we discover that all people are made in the image of God and deserving of help and salvation of all sorts. But those days are not gone. Because neither are His people.
What if real Jesus followers are still around?
People whose lives were changed by the Son of God who rose from the dead to forgive their sin and offer a new life? What if that faith still leads some to live like this life isn’t the end? Radically giving their money to each other. Flying across the world to serve and love girls who were told they were nothing and sold into sex slavery. Just giving away money and stuff people need for free. Or visiting people in prisons because they understand what it means to be locked up with shame over dark crap in their own past. What if there were real, actual Jesus followers hiding inside the cracks of our Americanized version of the Christian religion that you’re rejecting?
If these people would fast and pray for your infertility to the God who makes babies, would you be interested? If these people were connected with a Spirit who is more powerful than your demon of anxiety, would you want that, too? If these people celebrated the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead by dunking each other in water and eating bread and wine, calling it someone’s body and blood, wouldn’t you be a tad curious what it all meant? What if Christianity were still a supernatural, fascinating, offbeat spirituality—with real people of love and miraculous power? Be honest. Would you give it a second look?
I think you might. So I have a challenge: Read the book of Acts. See where it all began and the history of the first people who encountered a resurrected dead man they said was God. Figure out why they were willing to die for their “story.”
Read Acts like you’re not mad at Christians. Read it like the TV preachers aren’t so annoying. Read it like you’re not bored with the cheesy one-liners that try to sell you on Jesus. Read it like your mom didn’t drag you to church when you were little in pants that were too tight. Read it like some people in the church aren’t still trying to devalue and abuse women. Set your convenient (and mostly true) objections aside for a moment in search of a living God. Read Acts like you might find a weird, dangerous, fascinating new spiritual faith that some people followed with every beat of their heart and every ounce of their life. Because you will. They did. And some still do.
And, if you choose to, pray this prayer: God, please show me who you really are and connect me with a real follower of Jesus. Amen.