“Christianity isn’t a failure; it just hasn’t been tried yet.” G.K. Chesterton.
I find tremendous hope in this quote from the British writer. By reading and reflecting on these words I am able to redirect my assessment of my faith walk in the realms of “Christianity” as not so much a failure on my part but a misdirection on the part of the institution of Christianity. The tenets of this religion founded in the 4th century C.E. on teachings attributed to Jesus of Nazareth seem to miss the mark by a wide margin in its position of power in today’s world.
I cannot comprehend a Jesus dying on his cross so that I could rest comfortably in my recliner flipping channels between the football games on TV all day Sunday. I do not understand a Savior who would tell me that I am closer to God than my Muslim neighbor just because their prophet, Muhammad, appeared on the world scene 500 years after he did. I don’t believe Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” but then 2000 years later, “if thy neighbor is black, gay, Syrian, or Muslim, disregard what I said.”
Can it be that Jesus, the professed centerpiece of Christianity, would want to be simply defined as a radical love leading to personal transformation and renewal transcending to a mindset of inclusion and compassion for all of humanity and all of Creation? Jesus did not exclude anyone in his ministry on earth, not the Samaritan woman at the well, not the hated tax collector, not the prostitute, not the adulteress about to be stoned. He does not today exclude anyone. If he is today what he was then, how could he?
I am not excluded because of who I am. I fall far short of the enlightenment I am destined to behold, yet I know that though my neighbor may feel empowered to cast the first stone condemning me, Jesus does not.
That is powerful stuff. If the Christian world truly followed its Messiah, its Savior, mankind would be witnessing a peace beyond comprehension, a brotherhood which encompasses all religion, race, creed, and sexuality under the widespread arms of a righteous, loving God.
My living faith cannot function on a religion based on a a statue or picture hanging on the church wall merely to be worshipped and adored. The historical Jesus did not die on the cross only to fulfill Old Testament prophecy and bring a future salvific eternity to man. His death and resurrection are significant events to the Christian faith, but his life is the body and blood we celebrate as Christians when we receive the bread and wine. Living our lives as nearly to the life which Jesus lived is supposed to be the cornerstone of Christianity. Jesus was a zealot and a radical human who challenged the authorities of that time with a revolutionary view of man’s purpose on earth. And he was crucified for his teachings. What is more profound was the courage needed to live out his humanness and to go against the hypocritical hierarchy of his tradition, Judaism, suffering labels of heretic and blasphemer when he knew within his God relationship that he was right.
Yes, of course, there were many others who garnered the hatred of the Jewish and Roman authorities. Many others were also crucified. But Christianity is self-defined as the theology centered on one man. It named that man the Christ. It is supposed to adhere to the teachings attributed to Christ. History tells us that the institution has failed miserably with this directive. Sadly, I can’t change the 1600 year history of Christianity. But, how am I doing personally as a professing follower of Jesus, the one named Christ? Am I radical enough to claim the following words?
“Well done good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:23
If so , then my life has been successful. I am not here to build an empire, to claim riches, to embrace power, or to follow other ego-driven idols. I am here to be a good and faithful servant to humanity. I fall short constantly but I will keep on trying.