This morning on the way to work a beautiful worship song came on. The lyrics were simple, yet the weight of the words on my heart was anything but. Tears came to my eyes, overcome, I prayed in the Spirit. As I prayed, I saw a vision.
A faceless person in a riverbed, the water rising and rushing past. The current raised above the person’s head, until they bobbled along, treading water, while lifting their mouth and nose to the sky to suck in much needed breath. Just when it seemed to be too much, the waters receded, and what was left was a person glimmering. Little sparkles of light emanating from their body.
I felt the Lord speak to my heart, “my Spirit is like a rushing river, flooding your soul. Much like my consuming fire, my living water engulfs those who thirst for it. The engulfing process isn’t easy; it feels like you will drown. But in the end, you can shine my glory to the world.”
I thought of my own life. Now, I’m certainly not gleaming! I don’t sparkle like a character from the Twilight series. But I do desire my life to shine the light of God’s love, for His glory to be evident in my life. And over the past few years, drawing closer to the Lord, asking for His Spirit and Truth, I had felt the distress of going under. When the thoughts you’ve always held are challenged, it’s kinda painful. I mean, it’s much easier to stay put on comfortable dry land, secure in the mindset you’ve always known. But is that what God has for us?
I’ll never presume to tell someone how their relationship with Jesus should go, but for myself, I wanted more! He says, “my thoughts are not your thoughts,” but I didn’t want to completely throw my hands up for knowing His heart. I dove into scripture, and I encountered a Savior who started to make me question the status quo. I looked at the behavior of Jesus, and then I held that up to the behavior of us all as followers of His way. It’s not to say I expected anyone (especially me) to reach this level Christ had, but I did recall Him saying “we could be perfect since He is perfect.” And right before these words, He had been speaking of His love. Therefore, I set out to emulate His teachings. Kinda like the old, WWJD, but a lifestyle rather than a marketed slogan.
Now, let me tell you, when you start questioning behavior of the church in relation to Christ’s teachings, you really piss people off. And nothing made the situation more convoluted than American politics. Did anyone ever wonder if the politicians were playing us?!
Your faith is called into question if you can’t actively support immoral behavior in leadership, a heretic for suggesting we separate our political leanings from our serving Jesus (since conservative candidates don’t automatically equal Christ-like), and a liberal for caring about the lives of immigrants or LGBTQIA. It hurts my heart that our Christianity is important enough to impact our political leanings, but not important enough that we demand moral behavior of our leaders. Or that we demand moral behaviors of those outside of the church, but not of ourselves. It’s as if suggesting God loves the sinner, the citizens of countries other than America, or justice and real equality for all is needed, it makes you a trader to Christianity.
The problem was, the disconnect between the average American Christian’s belief system versus the life of Jesus. I mean, we all agreed He was our Savior, but when it came to how we should treat other people, it grew more gray. Even though He tells us the most important commandment. To love the Lord your God with all your heart, and to love others as yourself. To even love our enemy!
You can hold a Bible in the air for a camera all you want, but if you’re going to put the name “Christ,” in your label of belief (Christian), shouldn’t you maybe try and do what He said? And didn’t Jesus say we’d know God by knowing Him? And didn’t He also say, by your fruit they will know you are mine? So, isn’t a huge part of our faith knowing His character and then displaying that for others so they can know it too?!
It’s like, shortly after the formation of the original church (set forth by Jesus), we started inserting our own ideas of how it should go. Many of the letters from Paul to the early church address this. This desire to keep following the law when Christ had abolished our chains to this harsh system we could never achieve. Yet even today, we expect certain boxes to be checked, certain sins to be avoided (while others are ignored), certain sides to stay firmly on in regards to particular platforms, and certain candidates to vote for cause they’re standing on that particular sideline. Whether they’re wearing sheep’s clothing doesn’t matter when you place more weight on culture than Christ.
To question these things isn’t looked upon well, but should we not always be evaluating our heart motives to God’s heart? If we want to claim a religion that follows Jesus, shouldn’t we love as He loves? Shouldn’t we walk in empathy for others? Should we not care for those who need us? There are so many scriptures on this, so why aren’t we giving up “our cloak as well?”
Why do we focus on things of this world, when the Lord calls us to focus on Heavenly things? Why do we worry about what we will eat, or put our surplus in stores for it to rust?
When did we forget salt and light means showing the love of Jesus, not placing ourselves on a pedestal?
When did we mistake the call of Christians to serve others as a decision to only look out for our own?
I could go on and on. Remember when I said I definitely don’t gleam? It’s true. I’m just a work in progress, much like we all are, but I desire to shine with His glory! Not because I must do it to gain His love, but I want to do it because of His love freely given. This love that He asks us to freely give also. It’s hard, y’all. It’s hard to lay down pride, to lay down judgment, and to lay down offense. It’s a daily surrender, but I would encourage anyone, who wants to be engulfed by His Spirit, to seek Him. Read the words in red, the words of Jesus, and ask yourself in all humility if your Christianity is simply a slogan, or is it a lifestyle.