"It is far easier to ask forgiveness of a god we can't see than from a person we can see." -Philip Gulley, If The Church Were Christian: Rediscovering the Values of Jesus
I'm just finishing up Philip Gulley's new book, If The Church Were Christian, and it's been a breath (blast, at times) of fresh air. Sure, I disagree with some of what Gulley puts forth as 'the values of Jesus,' but for the most part, he's dead on. His latest book might make Matthew and Luke raise their eyebrows (I imagine Mark and John would be smiling all the way through, though). Why? Because this book has a Rabbinic flare to it, in that, it addresses what the Church has too often neglected: today's world, today's people, today's hurting souls. All too often, Christian orthodoxy focuses on future eschatology while leaving John's understanding of realized eschatology far, far behind. It's almost ironic the Left Behind series are called that; for that is exactly what they have done to millions of people. They've left behind an understanding of Jesus, an understanding of living life today, now, here, present in hopes of gaining some personal (eternal) security.
Years ago, I had a thought: "Doesn't heaven sound like the most selfish thing a Christian could ask for? Wouldn't the most sacrificial, love-act be (if love really is laying down one's life for a friend) to lay down one's afterlife, then, as well?" It seems counter-Christian to be so consumed with eternity, yet, this is the way of most church folk.
But that's getting me off track (this is the last chapter of the book, so perhaps that's why I jumped to talking about it because I just finished reading it). In essence, this book is a wake-up call for Christians who want to be real, who want to do good, who want to take life seriously, who want to not check their brain at the door in order to follow Jesus. Some people will tremble and go a little mad after reading some of what Gulley is questioning but this is to be expected. Throughout history, any re-imagining of what Christian Orthodoxy entails has always been met with a firm fist (and sometimes a sword). But Christians need to let go and let loose a bit, and stop thinking that the world rests on their mind's doctrinal stances.
One thing I really loved about the book? It reiterated (within me), why the topic of 'women in ministry' is so important (and still, so behind-the-Jesus-times in so many growing churches). Are we really still telling people that women can't lead--in those most high places--of churches? Are we really still saying their gender has to take a back seat as far as leadership ability goes when it comes to churches? If we are, shame on us. For if we can be so selective of what we will modify (and not modify) within scripture, God help us for what else we are capable of reading (or not reading) into. This book reminded me of the amazing nuances of scripture and how easily we brush over them in hopes of constructing a manageable, livable faith life. How sad it is when people say they're 'living by the good book,' while making slight changes and modifications to their interpretations along the way (and yet, still thinking in their mind what they've done is "absolutely scriptural").
Newsflash: it isn't. So please, don't kid yourself by telling yourself 'this is living like Jesus.' We could all use a lot more humanity, a lot more humility when following Christ. This is the way of Jesus. Additionally, as the book so refreshingly suggests, we need more people willing to follow Jesus and less people who simply want to 'worship him on a Sunday morning.' True discipleship is worship. Maybe that's what the Church has been lacking for so long.