“Christian Faith” has been abused, maligned and misrepresented in recent years and most of the reason is us. Christians have given those outside our faith all the ammo they need to label us as self-righteous, judgemental and homophobic. We have divided ourselves with denominational-ism, we have allowed our academics to fist-fight over theology, and we have chosen to acquiesce to the loudest voices claiming to represent the “Christian faith.” When we choose not to speak up when our leaders lead or behave badly, we passively reinforcing their leadership. In recent years there has been more than enough justification to portray “Christian faith” in a negative way.
It’s time for us to change the narrative.
A simple reading of any of the Gospel books should make it clear that the doctrine, dogma, practice, ritual and theology of the church in Jesus day was broken, self-serving and oppressive. Jesus teaching, preaching and healing challenged all of those things, and yet was open and welcoming. Jesus was not establishing a new order, new doctrine, or a new religion. Modeling and teaching faith to his followers was far simpler.
Here is one small example. There are three places in the Matthew ch. 9 where Jesus encounters faith.
In 9:2 Jesus meets a group of friends carrying a paralyzed man. Jesus forgives his sin and heals the paralyzed man, because of the faith of his friends.
In 9:22 a woman is healed because she touched the fringe of Jesus’ cloak and he commends her faith.
In 9:29 two blind men cry out to Jesus and say they believe he can heal them.
In none of these cases were those seeking Jesus tested for orthodoxy, or asked for a proper confession, or rejected because of their nationality, orientation or gender. They simply came seeking Jesus, and believed encountering Jesus could bring healing.
“Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” (v. 22)
Christian faith is seeking Jesus, believing that the encounter will bring healing. Somehow we have twisted the story of Jesus and his ministry to suit our own desires for righteousness, power, or whatever. And in so doing, we have tried to keep Jesus, and the healing he brings for the whole world, for ourselves.
Doctrine, dogma, practice, ritual and theology all have a purpose within a gathered community of faith, but none of them is the object of our faith. Christian faith is seeking Jesus, believing that an encounter with Jesus will bring healing.
People of God! It is time for us to speak up and change the divisive story that has been told on our behalf, and has misrepresented the Christian faith.
Let us seek Jesus, and let us help others to do the same. Amen.