Rector's Blog: To Be A Christian or Not
I left church when I was 16, and I stayed away for years. I’d show up for major holidays, weddings, and funerals, out of obligation or habit, maybe even out of some small hope that church would mean something to me again. But mostly it didn’t, and mostly I was out. If you’d asked me if I was Christian at that time, I would have said, “Yes.” Or more likely, “yes, but...” Truth be told, I had no idea what to do with being Christian.
Christians get it wrong a lot of the time, this living and loving and caring for each other. We oftentimes prioritize being right over being together. Many times, our idea of what’s right suspiciously resembles however we were already living, the people we already liked, the way we already were going to vote. Then we tack a Bible verse on at the end of our opinion as if to say, “See? Just like God wanted.” We Christians can be fractious and petty, defensive, violent, and scared of change. In other words, Christians seem to act like everyone else, only more so.
I can think of a lot of reasons not to be a Christian. But I am a Christian, and I’m a Christian for one reason: Jesus. I can’t shake Jesus. I tried. It didn’t take. No matter how much I tried to distance myself from church, from religion, from my faith, I have never been able to stop thinking about Jesus. I’ve never been able to stop talking to Jesus. I’ve never been able to stop looking for Jesus. And maybe you’re wondering what I even mean when I talk like this about Jesus: Do I mean the historical person? Do I mean God in the flesh, some mystical unexplainable divine human? Do I mean Jesus on some personal intimate level? Do I mean Jesus in some metaphorical way? Yes. To all of that, yes. I want to know Jesus.
But not just that. More than that. This faith thing is deeply personal, and I need to communicate something of deep intimacy to you about Jesus. It’s not just about what I want. It’s about what I have experienced. In my reading about Jesus and praying to and through Jesus, and thinking, talking about, and trying to follow and believe in Jesus, I have a sense of being known. I have a sense of being loved. Known fully. Loved extravagantly.
I’m a big fan of The Beatles and I love reading about them and listening to their music and watching their documentaries. And when I listen to or watch or read about them, I feel on some level like I know them. I feel like I understand them, I get them. But in my engaging with the Beatles, I’m never given over to the sensation that they know me – that I am a part of their life the way they are a part of mine. I can listen to Abbey Road countless times and not ever get the sense that John, Paul, George, or Ringo know me.
And then there’s Jesus. When I read and pray and think and talk and listen to and with and for and about Jesus – when I engage with Jesus – I feel so incredibly, indescribably known.
Imagine being known fully for who you are. Imagine someone knowing you fully and loving you just as fully. With no reservation or caveat. I have to say “imagine” because it’s so far from the way most of us experience life. We are used to feeling like love is something you have to earn, and we definitely believe it’s something that can be taken away. All of us withhold parts of ourselves from the people around us because we believe if they saw all of us they might not actually like us, much less love us. But the Gospel of Jesus is that God knows all the things we hide and loves us without condition or reservation – as we are, for who we are. Even imagining this to be true is liberating and life-giving. Living as if it’s true is the work of the Christian.
So I’m a Christian because of Jesus. Because I am endlessly captivated by the loving, liberating, life-giving way of Jesus. Over and over again. Unavoidably. Inevitably. I find myself there.