The church needs to get back to it’s roots.
Back before evangelicals, and reformation, at crusades, and popes, there was the book of Acts. These guys knew what “church” was all about. They invented it. They ate together. They hung out. They sang. They talked about God as if it was OK not to know every little detail.
And, best of all, they lowered the bar.
They lowered the bar so we could all walk across together. At some point they realized that their expectations were too high. People were interested in getting involved but couldn’t live up to the standard that had been set. These people knew that there was something altogether different about this Jesus guy they had heard about and wanted to try to live like him because they thought it was a better way to do life.
Of course, now that he had been crucified and was long gone from the scene, the people left over were those who had encountered him, or encountered people who encountered him. This first group of insiders, then, were Jews. There were thousands of years of history and tradition and ritual that came along with that – there were time-honored traditions that became as much a part of their faith and practice as God himself. You may remember that part of what God wanted the Israelites to do was for the males to undergo a little surgical procedure as a sign.
I know, I know. That’s a whole other story.
It’s not even like these people were “converting” to Christianity. They were inventing it. With all of their baggage and history and tradition, they were figuring out with other people who encountered Jesus (again, all raised within the Jewish tradition). They understood that Jesus was a Jew. They understood that he was a Rabbi and so he acted in certain ways, and reasoned in certain ways, and did things that religious Jewish men did. He ate kosher. He studied the Torah. Everything they had seen Jesus do had been in the context of Jewish life.
So what about when people who weren’t Jewish, who had no idea what it meant to be Jewish, who loved red meat, came and wanted to know more about this Jesus guy?
The people who were already in had a couple of choices. The first was to simply say, “Sorry, you don’t qualify. You’re not a Jew, Jesus was a Jew, unless you’re willing to become intimately familiar with Jewish law, practice, ritual, and nuance, you’re out.”
But that’s not what they did.
Instead they sat down, and they tried to figure out that if Jesus story was in fact for everyone then what they had was a situation where a lot of the rituals and nuances that grew out of living life as a Jewish individual may not apply to non Jews…. you may know them as Gentiles. What they came up with was this:
“…we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”
It goes on to say that they didn’t want to burden the Gentiles with any rigid requirements.
They “lowered the bar” so that more people could learn to figure out Jesus without having to worry about how many grains of wheat could be picked on the Sabbath, what songs to sing at what time of day, or how they were going to pay for that surgical procedure with no health insurance.
Now, contrast that with today.
We’ve got churches who figure that they’ve got it all figure out. You can’t be a member here unless you wear this, or pay this, or believe this. Another tragic turn from our roots of inclusiveness, tolerance, love, acceptance. We add condition upon condition, barring access to Jesus like we’re the oafish doorman outside the trendy nightclub. We had a good thing going there for a while, but then we let our power get in the way. At some point, we switched from the desire to have more people come live this life to the desire to have them meet our expectations. Nevermind that half of these “doctrines” are at least irrelevant to how I live my life, and perhaps even as far as counter productive to what Jesus wanted to do.
It makes me angry that people who honestly just want to see Jesus to figure out if he’s the real deal, if what he said in his day was worth living for, have to go through the bureaucratic mumbo jumbo that we’ve added to the process. He doesn’t care what you look like or what you do. He doesn’t want you to figure it out first, and then come talk to His people. Half of what we say is heresy anyway.
I say “Lower the bar, Church.” We’ll all be more like Jesus.