Friday, March 10, 2006


I hate to generalize like I am going to do in a moment, because it is the sort of generalization that rises up some sort of immediate reaction emotion, even for me; but I will anyway because I don't hate it enough to avoid it.
I smile with a mischievous grin as I type: sometimes reaction emotions make for some really great heated discussions - usually, the type of discussions in which you say something that ends up coming out nothing like what you meant it to and one for which you think of the perfect response to much after the opportunity is gone. Fortunately, typing things out on blogs gives the opportunity to take time to ponder responses, and gives us the wonderful option of deleting something that reactively spewed from within.

Here goes:
It seems to me as though most religions - on second thought, maybe all religions - try so hard to get to God (or whatever it is they are trying to get to) that they lose sight of the real thing. Their focus disappears. While this is probably true of all religions, I have most experience of it in Christianity. And, since I believe in Jesus Christ as the ultimate truth, I think it matters most that Christians lose sight of the real thing - who is Christ.
Before I take the credit for a new thought, I must point out that the whole book of Colossians focuses on this very concept. As the church of Colosse struggled on their own, outsiders came in and tried to add to the simple truth of the gospel of Christ. They added all sorts of beliefs on rituals and traditions that should be done in order to follow Christ, but really, all of those things were shadows of the real thing.

The point should be made that some of them
were shadows of the real thing. In other words, not all of them were abscure, completely revocable concepts that were to be eradicated hands down. Some of the traditions could have been good for their faith, but none of it was, because their focus was all wrong. They worried so much about the traditions that they could not see the reason for the traditions.

Figuratively speaking:
The Colossians never experienced the joys and sorrows of the book because they were too mezmerized by the cover.
They never walked into the mansion and witnessed all its beauty and mystery because they spent so much time being captivated by the complexity of the door.
They never became rich from the treasure inside the chest because they were too busy polishing the lock.

How often do we, as Christians, worry so much about acting like a Christian, looking like a Christian, and doing what Christians do that we forget that the substance of our faith is the fullness of Christ Himself - not Christianity, not Christian culture, not church, not church functions, not being a good evangelist.

Colossians 2:17 Such [things] are only the shadow of things that are to come, and they have only a symbolic value. But the reality (the substance, the solid fact of what is foreshadowed, the body of it) belongs to Christ. (Amplified Version; emphasis added)

For more, read Colossians. It's a good book.


J. Holo said...

There's a movement going on right now of churches and individual Christians that I am finding myself aligned with more and more. I'm young and I am skeptical about a lot of things, but what they say I find myself agreeing with more and more. They want to get back to the main thing, namely, that the Christian religion and Christ's church are not about merely church programs, Christian traditions, being relevant in our culture, or whatever very good or bad thing the church picks up, but is, fundamentally, and only, really, about Jesus Christ and Him crucified - the Gospel, nothing more, nothing less. Man is sinful, God is just, Man deserves Hell, but God loves man too much, so God sent His Son to die for man's sin, so that Man can now live forever as a child of God. If we seek to live in light of this, there's enough in that "simple" Gospel message to keep us burning bright for Christ and totally occupied our whole lives discovering the riches of who God is and what He's done for us.
All those delightful extras like big systematic theology books, good programs, relevance to the culture, etc. will flow from that, and with greater power and more sincere motive than if they were just tacked on or, worse yet, made the central thing in any church.

Adam said...

I would say yes and no at the same time: On one hand I understand the desire to get rid of all the complicated Christian traditions and ways of expressing faith and start from scratch, from the Real Thing. On the other hand, I suggest that before “smashing of the statues” and “burning of the relics” as it was conveniently done by great reformers of the church a few centuries back (possibly out of similar good intention), one has a good look at what Jesus did or did not himself. Yes, he did get angry with people who were treating his father's house for their financial gains and he despised hypocrisy but he also was not advocating the abolition of the law but rather its fulfilment. In fact, I hope I am correct, he never criticised Jewish tradition (which is based on the law and the prophets) only the corruption of it by the Scribes and Pharisees. Think about it. Perhaps it is better to try, admittedly with some effort and with our Lord's help, to understand and appreciate what a beautiful deposit of faith we have received along all those centuries up until the present times. There is always a temptation to discard something we do not fully comprehend. Continuity of tradition is good if properly understood. For example, Jesus told us to baptise using water, and in doing so he instituted the sacrament of baptism. This a symbolic way of washing away our original sin but surely it can become an empty ritual if it is just another social function, merely an excuse to invite some friends and family for a party. Should we therefore say: “Away with baptism, lets just get to the Real Thing and not bother with water”. No, water is an essential symbol without which baptism is not valid. As humans in this world we do need physical symbols and rituals because we are physical beings and we cannot see spiritual realities as God sees them, although some may have some good insights. If one tradition is discarded, a new one is automatically formed. There is no escape. One look at the history of Christianity should be enough.
Hmm.. I better stop here. Just wanted to put a different viewpoint to balance the argument. Most young people want to eradicate tradition but as we grow older (perhaps it must be my case then) we often start to look at it from a different angle.

kt said...

I happen to think that balance was already made.

"The point should be made that some of them were shadows of the real thing. In other words, not all of them were abscure, completely revocable concepts that were to be eradicated hands down."

I especially do not think the symbolic practices instituted by Christ such as baptism or communion should be done away with, nor do I think that any of the traditions should necessarily be done away with. I do, however, find myself frustrated when the focus is so intently on the practices that the reason for the practices is completely lost.

Christmas, I suppose, is a good example of my thought here. "Jesus is the reason for the season," is a phrase often used to remind us that all the things we do - give gifts, get together with families, have programs, etc. - are to be done in celebration of Jesus' advent on the earth. We tend to get ultimately wrapped up in all of the chaff and forget the Champion.

I suppose I should say, to be fair, that most of my frustration stems from the realization that "Christian" culture is vastly different from true Christianity (and here is where the phrase "maybe all religions" applies). All these good things we do and say and stand for (which really are good) are a mere shadow of the ultimate good. We often catch the good, but miss the ultimate good. Again, that does, by no means, mean that the good should be done away with or eradicated.

I hope that makes sense.

Adam said...

Yes, it does make sense. Thanks KT. I am also very much against turning Christian celebrations such as Christmas into shopping madness or crazy party time. I suppose I put my point a bit too strongly and did not think about it properly (lack of time and sleep as always;). Admittedly, it was probably more Jonathan's comment I was responding to rather than your original post. I just thought that these days in our individualist society everyone feels like they have to be the boss. So many well meaning people searching for Christ, when they get fed up with one church or tradition, just start another one and think it is going to be much better and closer to the truth. It is just going nowhere. Christ wanted us to be one and therefore no matter how hard it is, we should make that constant effort of being united in Him. Nevertheless, I believe that you were not referring to this in your post so there is no grounds for my argument.
To finish, I see the difference between people searching for the truth out of genuine motive (even if they make mistakes it is still a good thing) and those cynics who couldn't care less and use religion for their own selfish ends. I do get annoyed at this myself especially around Christmas time. Here in Britain I believe secularism has reached much higher level than in the US. I do not see what I can do about it myself apart from trying to keep focus on the real thing in your own circle and that is a valuable witness to others which hopefully will bear much fruit.

Anonymous said...

yeah I am with you and I think the phrase: "Christian" culture is vastly different from true Christianity" is the key. We often get so wrapped up in christianity that we forget its all about knowing Jesus and being like him. Jonathan is right there is a movement to get back to the basics. Strip off all the cluter that seems attached to christianity and get back to Christ.

J. Holo said...

This is a late comment, but... I totally agree with Adam. And I would never want to advocate dropping something Christ instituted like communion or baptism. But I'm seeing more and more that all those traditions stem from one spring: the Gospel - God loving the world so much that He sent His Son to die and rise again to redeem it. Communion exemplifies his death for us. Baptism expemplifies our renewal. Christmas is a celebration of the fact that God has come to redeem us. Easter is about how Christ has promised new life to His church through the Cross. The entire book of Romans is about the Gospel and how it affects our lives. Galatians is about how we should never add to the simple Gospel message. The tabernacle rituals point to the forgiveness of sin and the Cross. It's everywhere. The Bible is God's story of redemption from beginning to end. The world shouldn't have any other real assumption about the church other than that we're about Christ and Him crucified and that we live our lives as an outflow of His life and death... mainly, His death.
I'm heavily influenced in this thinking by pastors Tim Keller and C.J. Mahayne (sp?). So, yes, I am biased. And I'm probably not explaining this well. And I would be more than happy to be critiqued. :)
Sorry to take up so much space, kt.... let me know if this is too much.

kt said...

Jonathan, of course it's not too much.'s sort of fun. I really meant it when I said that I mischievously grinned as I typed "sometimes reaction emotions make for some really great heated discussions."

I think that we see eye to eye on this, although, my frustration is less with the world and more with the individual Christian - even myself.

My thoughts have been stirred lately on another facet of this same precious stone.

You said, "The world shouldn't have any other real assumption about the church other than that we're about Christ and Him crucified and that we live our lives as an outflow of His life and death... mainly, His death."

But I think I think that the only assumptions the world has about the church is what the church shows them. Of course, there are lies that Satan stirs up in people, but in my experience, it seems as though we Christians really help him along with making the name of Christ seem like nothing more than men trying to lord themselves over other men. In other words, the people who hate Christianity really hate the Christians that screw things up for Christ.

It seems as though our generation, us included, longs for something more than all the lies and hypocrisy we've been handed. Our generation (and maybe it is with every generation at this point in life) can see through all of it. People know when they're being faked. And all too often, us Christians are too busy acting like Christians to really be Christians.

Being raised in a Christian atmosphere, I find myself caring more about looking like a Christian and being accepted as Christ-like by the Christians around me that I forget to be right before Christ. I assume that right in the eyes of Christians is the same is right unto Christ.

It is not.

Longing to be right before Christians is just another form of lust, an obsessive desire to look good. We will say things in just the right way. We will make excuses that make our ugliness look okay. We will be glad when others fall that we were not the ones to fall and somehow think that we are better. We will go to all the services and participate in all the ways to worship, but none of it will be out of love for Christ - all out of love for self.

Ugly. Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!