Jesus has got a beef with Bible nerds. Well, certain kinds of Bible nerds anyway. Are you one of them? Read his stern word to the Ephesians to find out.
Acing the Church History Quiz, but Flunking on Love
God is love. Yes or no?
OK, so tell me this. How is it that a religion based on God’s love can be known for having so many jerk-faced followers?
Quit your squirming, I know what you’re thinking. “But the church has done lot’s of amazing things—look at all of the hospitals named after saints, and the relief organizations doing good work in the third world!”
We’re more concerned with our own Bible knowledge than extending the grace of Jesus to our neighbors.
You know what that kind of answer is really saying? That Christianity is morality. But it’s not. That would make the faith about either your spiritual resume or the failed resume of the dreaded “them.” You know, us versus them, or truth against lies, or the biblical precedent for the free market versus demonic socialism. Each of the either/or scenarios has a common denominator: subjectivity, what they’ve failed to do, and how we Christians are the great hope for the world!
Sadly, none of this is objectively about Jesus as Savior.
So how about a little honesty for once? Isn’t it true that we’re often more concerned with our own Bible knowledge than extending the grace of Jesus to our neighbors? How tragic. Similarly, this was the kind of issue Jesus had with the Ephesian church in the book of Revelation. They hated what the bad guy heretic Nicolaitans represented (which Jesus commended them for) but they lacked love.
What a Bisexual Nicolaitan Taught Me about Self-Righteousness
Years ago I worked in a big insurance company mail room with a guy we’ll call “Tom.” Tom was openly bisexual with hand tattoos and a penchant for really annoying hippie spirituality. We debated a lot. But he said something to me once that has haunted me for years.
“There are two main differences that I’ve noticed between Christianity and Buddhism,” he said. “Buddhism seems to be concerned mostly with understanding. Christianity seems to be concerned with being right.”
Tom was spot on. I was more concerned with winning my argument than extending grace to a hurting person.
How about you? Who’s the Tom in your life? Does your heart go out to them? Or are you annoyed?
When the “Church” Stops Being a Church
My wife and I are very different kinds of people. At parties, she loves to make the rounds by mingling with lots of different people, and I’m always amazed at her ability to make everyone feel welcomed and appreciated and I love that about her. Do you know what I do? I cloister myself in a corner with a couple of good buddies and we talk about the stuff we always talk about—you know, ideas that are going to change the world! The funny thing is, I rarely ever get those ideas out of the incubation phase of my mind and put it into real life practice.
What Jesus has done, is doing, and will continue to do is infinitely more important. So chill out. And repent.
Of course, we all have proclivities, skills, abilities, and inclinations. It’s not to say that one trait is necessarily better than another. What I am saying is, if left unchecked, my theology-club inclination is a clear picture of what so many of us do. We form a private club called “church” where we obsess over theological minutia. And the only people allowed into the club are the ones that can pass our doctrinal exam and know the secret handshake. But you know what? At some point, these kinds of clubs eventually lose their status as churches like the church in Ephesus, which sadly died out.
“But what about the truth?!” you exclaim.
Ah, yes. The truth. We’re all for the biblical truth. But if your religious environment is more of a cold, cliquish religious club rather than a warm, Jesus-worshiping community, it’s possible that Jesus may not even consider you a church anymore. Your church may be in danger of having your lampstand, a place from which the light of Christ goes out, taken away.
Signs You Might Be a Fundamentalist
You might be wondering at this point in the conversation why I haven’t tackled the important issues like why Christians shouldn’t cuss, chew, or go out with girls (or guys) who do.
But let’s cut to the chase and get to the heart: This isn’t about moralism. It’s about Jesus and what he’s done. It’s not about you. So here are a few diagnostic questions from a post I wrote for the Resurgence that may help:
- Do you live for the approval of others in the church?
- Do you stew over your spiritual performance and personal holiness more than you steep in what God has already accomplished for you in Jesus?
- Are you prideful about your biblical knowledge?
- Do you love to debate finer points of theology with others and get angry when you’re challenged about your views?
- Are you feeling burnt out and joyless in your service to those in the church?
- Are you uncomfortable with suffering people and find you’re quick to recite Bible verses as a way to avoid awkward, personal engagement?
If you answered “yes” to any of these, there is a good chance you have taken God’s good gifts of knowledge and used them for your own selfish purpose—to make yourself look good by looking down your nose at others. You’re just like an Ephesian stewing over the culture-ravaging effects of the Nicolaitans’ heresies.
But what Jesus has done, is doing, and will continue to do is infinitely more important than what the guys in the black hats are up to. So chill out. And repent.
Here’s the thing: we all are addicted to some sort of self-justification or shallow moralism at one time or another, myself included. So Bible nerd, I’m glad that you know some verses and can clearly articulate your rapture theories. But in the process of getting your Bible study time dialed, don’t forget about your first love: Christ and his church.
With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.