i don’t like to begin posts with these types of disclaimers, but, more and more, i find a certain segment of my readership, shall we say, likes to assume the worst about things i write. so, the following is not a condemnation of any other churches or lofty claims about my own spirituality. hopefully, i’m approaching this with a matthew 7:4 type of attitude… so, here goes.
let’s talk revelation. 🙂 well, i’m not really going to get into any of the nitty gritty about the book of revelation, but it’s been on my mind for the last couple days. often, when on the phone with my dad (who’s a pastor), he likes to—shall we say—”share” his sermons with me. sometimes i get them while he’s fleshing them out and sometimes i get them post-delivery. a couple days ago, i got one of the post-delivery variety.
i can’t remember the entire context, but he focused on revelation 3:20, where we find jesus, in a letter to the church at laodicea, standing outside the door of the church stating the following: Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. so, we have the image of jesus standing outside the door of the church who is supposedly a community of his followers and he is having to ask to enter.
the point my dad made (and which i agree) is that one of the overarching themes of revelation is that jesus’ return is imminent when he is no longer a part of and welcome in the church. let me clearly state that i’m not trying to be one of these crazies who try to predict when jesus is coming back. rather, i’m simply stating that the church discontinues its purpose when jesus is absent.
yesterday, as i was still thinking through said conversation, we drove past a church in west little rock (that will remain unnamed) that was showing its patriotic spirit, i guess you could say, by displaying a row of what had to be 50 american flags (of course, my guesstimation skills are seriously lacking…). it was very overwhelming and certainly implicitly states one (or more) of the church’s values.
so look, i’m not trying to say one can’t be patriotic (i certainly am) or thankful to live in the u.s. (i certainly am), but a church with that intense level of patriotic display? quite frankly, i have a problem with that. i won’t go into a full explanation of all that’s wrong with the mixing of patriotism and christianity, but let me just say that when the book you lift up as your sacred text is the overarching story of a god who redeems a people group from an empire, then maybe we should unwrap the bible from the american flag… ok, before i get going on that, let me move on and make the point.
what struck me about their flag display, in relation to jesus’ request to enter the church, wasn’t simply about jesus being disallowed to enter the church. i’m absolutely sure that the leaders and people at this particular church speak of and worship jesus. i guess what i’m leading up to here is determining which jesus they’re speaking of and worshipping.
i feel like what we see here, specifically in the american church, is that while jesus is certainly welcome within the church, i think, more and more, we’re seeing some other jesus. it’s the american jesus. it’s the fundamentalist jesus. it’s the republican jesus. it’s the democrat jesus. it’s the warrior jesus. it’s the legalistic jesus. it’s the white jesus. it’s the [fill in the blank] jesus.
i’m just not sure it’s the “stand at the door and knock” jesus.
i think this is why one of my core ecclesial values is simply “jesus.” i once blogged about that particular guiding value and someone commented with basically, “why waste your time blogging about this? it’s sort of a ‘duh’ thing.” one would think, but i’m not sure it’s that cut and dry. when the church decides to put the life, values, words and mission of [the real] jesus at the center of the way its community is formed and engaged, then i think jesus doesn’t have to stand outside the door and knock. until that time, though, i hope more churches begin to examine which jesus resides at their church (including my own).