On a blog about how Christianity is Perceived, David Kinnaman took a survey where Non-Christians aged 16-29 years old were asked, “What is your current perception of Christianity?”
- 91% said antihomosexual
- 87% said judgmental
- 85% said hypocritical
- 78% said old-fashioned
- 75% said too involved in politics
- 72% said out of touch with reality
- 70% said insensitive to others
Lately I’ve been cracking open the letter that Paul wrote to the followers of Jesus in the province of Galatia, which is now modern-day Turkey. It’s funny how he introduces it, because in most of his letters to other areas of the Mediterranean he spends time thanking the people for their love, generosity and faithfulness. Not so with the Galatians… This is all he says as an introduction:
Paul, an apostle not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:1-5, ESV)
Then Paul goes on to ream out the Galatians because they have bought into a false teaching. Certain religious people amidst them have tried to force the newly found gentile followers of Christ to get circumcised, and follow religious laws set down by Moses, the old traditions of God so to speak.
And in no way is following Jesus throwing out traditions that are worthwhile, but these religious people want them to follow traditions that are irrelevant to the spiritual lives of these new followers of Jesus. They have nothing to do with obeying God, but were rather traditions that were relevant in the time of Moses, and had no relevance in the first century AD.
It begs us to answer the question: “What does it take to become a follower of Jesus”? Do people have to throw out all of their old music? Do people have to completely clean up their life? Do people have to renounce all the ways that keep them from God? Keep certain religious rites? Adhere to a certain institutional doctrine?
The invitation seems not to be to perfect religious people, but to drunkards, swindlers, sex addicts, thieves, cheaters, liars, and yes, even to perfect religious people who realize their imperfection and need for rescue.
But if you have claimed to be a follower of Jesus for any number of years I must challenge you with this… what things about your religious expression stand as barriers in the way of people to walking through the door that Jesus has left wide open? We are in great danger of repeating the error of the Galatians when we force people who don’t yet know Jesus into religious constructs.
Here’s the first thing we all need to know- Jesus loves us despite ourselves, and His offer of salvation is free to all who would consider it. The only prerequisite is that you have to be sick of everything you’re doing. You have to be tired of the life you’re leading, and aware of your own path to self-destruction and its infliction on others. Then Jesus takes you as you are- garbage and all, and God begins to move in your life and change everything.
Don’t be distracted by people who force you into religion, but read and wrestle with what Jesus said yourself.