I used to have this down pat. God loves man. Man rebelled against God. Jesus died for us. We need to put our faith him. Period.
But then came the questioning of my faith, and a more objective look at the way it is represented by institutional Christianity. The institution confused an organization (the church) with a way of living out faith in Jesus. Of course, I found a lot of glaring contrasts between the two. The church emphasized the embracing of axioms about the faith and supporting the organization over living a life that is informed and inspired by Jesus.
I chose the here and now over the bye and bye, actions over knowledge, and the heart over the head.
But every now and then, some nagging questions haunt me.
- Is what I have embraced a new gospel, or a rounding out of the one I heard and preached all of those years?
- What is the place of a personal decision in our spirituality and the way we follow Jesus?
- How important are those axioms, or points of doctrine that some people fight about?
- Do I still believe in a final destination determined by what happens in this life?
A gospel or good news about Jesus that emphasizes living like him is not new. It simply fleshes out the more theoretical, cerebral gospel. Jesus made it pretty clear that a life lived is more convincing than doctrines believed.
A Personal Decision?
It is a personal decision to join with Jesus and his kingdom. It is a personal decision to give up on thinking we can work our way into God’s favor. It is a personal decision to believe Jesus is who he said he was. It is a personal decision to believe that Jesus allowed himself to be sacrificed. It is a personal decision to believe that he is God and arose from the dead. It is a personal decision to believe he lived an exemplary life.
But individuals seldom make sudden U-turns based on a decision they made. Some people supposedly believe this stuff, but are still real jerks. Sometimes we all are real jerks. Living out what we say we believe in real life is a journey full of twists and turns, and ups and downs. The trajectory is never a straight line upward of living a better a life. It’s learning, failing, and remembering, over and over again. It is a decision to not give up.
How Important is Doctrine?
It’s the beginning, not the end. It’s the foundation, not the building. A life of faith and love is far more important than life of cerebral correctness.
Heaven or Hell?
I would love not to believe in Hell, and I would love to be a universalist, but neither is true. I can’t sort it all out, and I don’t believe everything is as formulaic as Evangelicalism taught me, but I do believe in the basic grace and justice convergence of God that works its way out in the hereafter.
Unfortunately, there has been too much emphasis on the hereafter, and not enough on the here and now. Likewise, there was always an emphasis on telling the good news, rather being Good News.
Photo Credit: David Shankbone. Creative Commons.