I watched a brief news story last night about my church Hillsong NYC on CNN last night. It surprised me (not really) how despite every interview Carl Lentz has done this year–each interviewer insists on trying to ask the same questions on whether or not we are a cult, whether or not we agree with gay marriage, and whether or not it’s okay to have a young creative congregation that has been coined “Hipster Christianity”.
I didn’t select this photo to be defensive. I’ve actually had it in my photo gallery for over two months but I think it sums up how I feel about my pastor, Carl Lentz. So often he gets slack from other churches and Christians about not taking a stand on issues however I don’t think that’s necessarily a problem. Our church body is full of all sorts of different people and opinions. People who are from various backgrounds, gay people, straight people, young people, old people, divorced people, single people, and so on. So often “religion” becomes an opportunity to be left or right on issues and I think Pastor Carl is trying to replicate how Jesus was in the Bible. God’s Kingdom is above conventional titles in that respect. Granted there are still universal truths like you shouldn’t commit adultery, murder, or steal but even within that there are all sorts of situations and circumstances i.e. you can commit adultery by looking lustfully at someone and you can commit murder by speaking negatively to someone. It gets messy.
If you are a Christian by the world’s standards you ought to be conservative, if you are a Christian you cannot have a different opinion than another Christian, etc etc etc. I think what is often pegged as question-dodging is actually Biblical. There is what is primary doctrine and unchangeable truths like Jesus being the only way to Heaven and secondary doctrine would be like speaking in tongues. Secondary doctrine is not essential to being saved in other words. People can believe that speaking in tongues is the only evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit and others can believe it is just one of many kinds of gifts from God and not necessarily reflective of His absence.
I bring this up because even within the church there can be arguments. On a human level we are all on our journey to know God in a deeper way and grow as Christians but we will not be made whole until we get our Heavenly bodies. We will not understand God’s ways here on Earth with our Earthly brains, we will not do everything correctly, but that’s where God comes in. He can see with x-ray vision the condition of our hearts. Therefore it is important to remember our opinions are secondary. I’m not God. I do not see people with x-ray vision. I do not know what they think every minute and cannot see their lives from start to finish. God can though. Therefore our judgement and perception of what or who is around us are secondary. God calls us to love each other as Christ loved the Church. He is endless in grace and mercy and love. He came to us while we were uninterested in Him and were still doing wrong.
So going back to the interview I think it is smart not to make harsh and exclusive comments. Jesus never judged the adulterous woman for example. He put the religious people to shame by saying whoever is righteous and without fault be the first to stone this woman. No one could do so. And granted we aren’t running around today stoning people but so often religious people do so with their words, their picket signs, their protests.
Even when Jesus was righteous on the cross and had the power to condemn or use His intelligence and authority, He held back. He showed mercy and grace and love. A fool vents his opinions and feelings, but a wise man holds back. Love is patient. Love is kind. It is not proud.
I think Legalism and Religion have caused other Christians and non-Christians to be confused as to who Jesus really is. So often Christians want to keep God in the box of Judge and prefer to see Him as solely Holy and Distant. They believe Christianity is being watered down, or has become too trendy; we are being Hipsters. I think that’s hilarious. Honestly. Since when does being set free and being in the presence of God have to mean dull services? Have to mean wearing your Sunday best? Have to mean going to a Pastor or Priest or Rabbi or whatever Holy Man to speak to your Creator when you are not less than and have full access to Him yourself?
I pray that people learn to let go of what they believe God should be, what would be comfortable to see Him as and see Him for who He truly is. Instead of worrying about what President someone voted for, who someone is dating, what they dress like, if they have tattoos, if they have a disease, if they are struggling with an addiction, what their sexual orientation is, and so on–let us continue to be road signs to Jesus. Not interrogation lights, not operating room lights, but road signs to illuminate the way.
Photo Credit: Pinterest Via Penny Arnett