A Confession

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Posted 15 Dec 2006 in Jesus, Ministry, Scripture, Spirituality

I’ve been thinking about this learnt behavior I have. It came to me sometime over the course of my Christian life and I’ve been trying to unlearn it for quite sometime. Maybe you can relate. It looks like this:

I’m talking to someone about their faith and there are basically two outcomes, either they claim Christian as their label or non-Christian. The latter is the easier case in a lot of ways. I say that because when someone tells me they do not consider themselves a Christian we continue to talk about life and faith and the like – in essence the conversation doesn’t shift or change. God remains the focal point of the conversation but in the practical, real ways He exist in my life and theirs. The more cumbersome case proves to be when a person claims Christian as their label. Seemingly immediately my heart enacts the learnt behavior of faith detective – the conversation shifts to checking for religious speak. What my heart is really listening for – the secret pass-phrase if you will – ‘accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.’ Once I hear it I then have to answer questions. Did they just grow up in the Church and know the secret words, what does their heart really believe?

This is wrong. This is backwards.

The problem here lies in a disconnect in how I am listening to each person. It would seem I take a person who doesn’t consider themselves a Christian at their word, while someone who does requires detective work. I believe completely that to follow Jesus is to accept Him as Lord and Savior – only I think we measure that like Jesus suggests, by the fruit of the tree. If a person has a desire to follow Jesus and are trying to do so we see evidence of such. You see it in how they talk about others, how they talk about themselves, how they talk about God. To understand someone’s heart requires commitment and desire to know them – not just looking for conformity to religious speak.

I believe understanding if a person is a Christian to be a vital part of shepherding and caring for people, only I think in a lot of ways I’ve learned to do it the wrong way. I’ve learned to make sure they conform their vocabulary to that of Christian normalcy. I like the why Eugene Peterson translates Jesus words in Matthew 7:21-23:

Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance— isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’

Loving people is not letting them just recite some magical incantation – Jesus is far more interested in your heart, in you being obedient, in you following Him. My gripe though is that in an effort to see if that is the case for a person I’ve learned to check their password instead.

I don’t think I’m alone in this…

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