An Apology on Behalf of the Church

My name is Tommy Holmes. I am a Christian, sort of. I have a hard time telling people that these days because of all the baggage this term comes with. Many people reading these words (if anyone is reading this at all) have already made a few assumptions about me. I am probably uptight and narrow-minded. I cannot tolerate smoking, drinking, or people who have pre-marital sex. I am probably conservative and love everything George Bush does. I hate liberals and anyone who is not pro-life. I judge people who don’t think the way I do or think that God is real. If you put me in a room filled with non-Christians, I get tense and irritated.

Unfortunately this is a realistic picture of the church in America. I find it hard to get away from this. I tell people I’m a Christian and immediately their attitude towards me changes. All of a sudden they can’t say certain words or have certain conversations if I’m around. They feel that if they are not careful about not say the naughty things, I will judge them. People are not at ease around me when they know that I am one of those religious guys. The problem is that they have every reason to feel this way. The church is far from what it was and farther from the Man who started the incredible movement that has become a life draining religion.

If you are reading this and feel anything like what I described above, it may very well be because of negative experiences you’ve had with people who claim to follow Christ. There’s no denying it; the church has not treated people outside of it well. Homosexuals have been alienated and cast out. Drug addicts and prostitutes are not welcome, nor do they feel welcome in any buildings bearing the name of Christ. Muslims and Jews are looked down upon. The posture of the church towards the people outside of it has resulted in the negative feelings many have towards Christianity.

I just want to apologize to you, whoever you are, for whatever experience you may have had with those who were supposed to love you and chose not to. I admit that I have been ignorant and judgmental. I have at times considered myself better than others. It is this attitude that has earned the church the reputation it now has. I am not saying I feel bad for you. I’m sure you’re fine. I just want to acknowledge that whatever feelings of bitterness you may have towards me, or others who have made the same error I have are not without good reason. I am sorry.

I am tempted to deny that I am a Christian if a Christian is indeed what I described above. However, I do believe that Jesus Christ is God and I do follow Him. I feel there is a need to differentiate between the two these days, Christians and followers of Christ. Christians are trying to defend a religion. They are trying to get people to see things the way they do, to change peoples behavior in order to conform them to become “nice Christian” people. They are often offended by the sin of others. This is why cursing is a big no-no when in the company of a Christian. He/she is holy and does not need to be within earshot of such barbarous language. They are forcing their views into politics and people understandably feel a need to resist. Teenagers begin to resist because they see the religion as a method of control. They do not want to conform and so rebel.

This is ironic because this pristine religion was once a massive revolution sparked by a passionate rebel. Jesus Christ caused radical change, threatened the religious establishment, and called men and women to follow Him and live fully and passionately. He said nothing of religion (nothing good anyway) and did not ask people to live boring lives, observing silly rules and regulations. He inspired people by embodying the character of God and calling those who listened to become passionate men and women who would reflect that character. He inspired men and women to live and die for a purpose greater than them selves, a purpose that would involve adventure, great risk and great cost.

Today’s church tries to hook people in with the promise of forgiveness of sin and healthy life with heaven waiting at the end. It is true that Jesus did speak of blessings and promise eternal life. It is also true that He lost over half of His following towards the end of His ministry because His teachings were too hard for many to swallow. He promised a life of servant hood and humility to those who would follow Him, demanded it even. He made it clear that in His kingdom, to lead was not to just use authority, but to serve those entrusted to us. He promised that life would be hard, that we would be called to be men and women who genuinely love the very people we would like to hate the most and to find ways to serve them. He called His followers to be the kind of people who would be willing to pour themselves out for others, to die to themselves and trust that they would find life in that death.
Heaven sounds incredible and I would love to go there now. But according to Jesus, the very heart of God is that of a servant. While heaven is a great incentive, the real joy of knowing and following Jesus is not just knowing that you go to heaven at death, but experiencing the joy of the liberation of a life lived for others and not for the self. This, according to Him, is what God is like. Go to any Christian bookstore. You’ll see books with titles like, “Seven Things that Steal Your Joy,” or “How to Have Abundant Life.” But Jesus wasn’t out to fill Himself, but to fill others. This was His joy.

It began as a bunch of fishermen, tax collectors and prostitutes. Cowards, murderers and liars. These people became something else and revolted against the spiritual slavery they had been liberated from. They became counter-cultural people, not fitting the mold but going against the grain of society. They weren’t out to make a name for themselves, but to empty themselves for others. They followed a radical man from an obscure Israeli town and swore that He was God. People kept on joining them, somehow convinced that this Man really was the God of Israel. Many of them were put to death. Of His twelve apostles, only one died of natural causes. It was a purpose worth risking everything for, worth giving everything for.

It sounds amazing to me. But when I look at most churches today, I don’t see the life, the passion Jesus inspired. I see a religion much like the one Jesus spoke out against. We care more about keeping prayer in schools, having “under God” in the constitution and preserving other religious traditions then we do about the people outside of the church walls. I want you to know, however, that something has begun. People like myself and like you are fed up. Despite the way things may appear, the Christian religion is dying. The revolution of Jesus Christ is beginning again. He is moving, stirring things up, screwing with the religious establishment because it is not what He intended. People are becoming tired with Christianity and obsessed with Him. He is sparking this spiritual revolution and is not calling people to conform, but to be transformed and inspired to become like Him.

I’m sure someone is reading this and thinking, “This guy’s nuts.” You are right. I am nuts. AND I LIKE THAT. I don’t want to be merely reasonable. I want to love people unreasonably, to do more for others than is reasonable, to live a life that is unreasonably selfless. I guess that takes a little craziness. Nobody takes part in a revolution because it’s reasonable, but because they are passionate about the purpose.

The thing about this revolution is that everyone is called and welcome to it. Jesus Christ is in the business of revealing Himself to people and calling them to be transformed and to help in that process. He never discriminated as to who was invited to follow Him. Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles alike were welcomed, encouraged to follow. Likewise, today, whether you are Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist or Christian, this revolution is for you.

If something stirs inside of you as you think about this, that is Him. I doubt it is my writing. I am not trying to convert people here. I’m not trying to get a few notches on my belt or get people to come to my church. I will almost surely never meet anyone who has read this in my life. I write it because this is my life. It is the thing that drives me. Jesus Christ snapped me out of my apathy and swept me up into a movement away from spiritual slavery and toward passionate freedom. He is moving quickly. I just want others to get swept up too and to know the liberation of following Him. The hypocrisy and lack of passion you’ve probably seen in the church in your life are not of Him, but are some of the very things He wages war against. Read His words. Look at what He said about Himself. It is worth it. His claims make Him relevant to us all because if He was telling the truth when He claimed to be God then He is real for us all and will make us come alive.

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