I love Jesus. I really love Jesus. But I am sick about all the stuff people try to attach to Him.
I grew up in a home where any religion was ridiculed. It was for the weak, gullible, unintelligent — the last thing anyone in our family wanted to be. Yet, Jesus is so appealing. When my sister told me that Jesus wanted to love me and forgive my sin and be my Savior, that’s all I needed to know. I was fourteen, and I accepted Him on the spot. I struggled a lot after that, trying to resolve my dad’s caustic comments with this Jesus who saved me. “Counting beads,” my dad called it, a reference to the Catholic rosary, but it was his slur for superstitious, organized religion.
Then I married and had kids — suddenly the stakes were multiplied. Our church taught us to pray, read, take on ministry — all the good things Christians do. But subtly, we learned that the culture of Christianity is about behavior modification. Sin management. Read, pray, love in order to hold sin at bay. But behavior was never meant to overshadow the Person of Christ. It’s like a party hosted by the Great Gatsby, but the party guests haven’t even seen him. Not because He isn’t there, mind you, but because they got so caught up in all the periphery, they’ve rather forgotten who they’re there to see.
But I think God has been unraveling the whole church culture for us. He’s been retrieving the message of the gospel and shaking all the behavior modification off it, so we can see it as it was meant to be. No wonder. The under-30s are not interested in church-as-usual. A list of acceptable behavior is not going to do it for this next generation. They want life, the very thing Jesus offers in abundance.
Augustine said, “I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are wise and very beautiful; but I have never read in either of them: ‘Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden.”’ Jesus will give you rest no matter how hard you’re struggling, or how heavy the load you’re carrying! That’s what He does. And He’ll give you more abundant life than you can imagine.