The only downside was the recurrent struggle I run up against with their theology. Its not just theirs either, but actually a good chunk of contemporary Christian theology. I’ll go even further and state it was also a theology I lived and promoted years ago. In its simplest form, its probably best demonstrated by the following tshirt graphic from www.notw.com.
At the outset, the above sounds great, it seems to make logical sense, and we can find a significant number of scriptures supporting peace coming about from knowing Jesus.
2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The bugger in this, is despite the scriptural support, its rarely lived out as a matter of practice. Many devoted Christians do not have peace, many non-Christians have found peace surpassing the peace exhibited by many Christians. This is a recurrent challenge I run up against with my prior as well as Casting Crowns underlying theology. We’re preaching a message that while true in many ways, ends up not ringing true in practice and thus sends messages which outside of a few theological bubble lands, rarely rings true.
My friend Mike posted some profound stuff on facebook this AM which got me thinking on this.
I was standing in line at Target and in the line there were two Christian women who kept raving about how “stupid, ignorant, and rebellious” non-Christians are.
I walked out of the store, put my Frank Turner album in, and see one of these ladies drive in the same direction in front of me. She has the infamous, “Know Jesus, Know Peace/ No Jesus, No Peace” bumper sticker on her car.
What struck me as I was driving was that a sociopath or narcissist could do horrible things without regret, shame or guilt. While a Christian could give up a destructive life pattern, and because there’s change and repressed emotions, there’s anxiety, stress, and other unexplained emotions. All if these good things but are the antithesis of emotional peace.
So there it is… a glaring example.. and perhaps more so, what about those Christians who choose to maintain sociopathic or narcissistic practices? What about chronic abusers who fail to leave such at the cross? We’ve all heard and many know of the “super Christian” in public thats the epitome of evil in private. Yes, they are forgiven by the blood of Christ… but the carnage and destruction they leave behind to say nothing of the witness they are showing… whoa.
You can not feel peace or know peace but follow Jesus. You could not follow Jesus and feel completely okay about life. The failure of these women is they don’t see or trust in the Spirit who Comforts in trouble and a God who creates life out of chaos. This is the Presence of God, who is peace.
What these women also fail to see, as Stanley Hauerwas has taught me, the Gospel is more seen than believed in. We come to know the Gospel when we encounter Jesus. We see it when the Church us being the Church. We see it when Christians incarnate the Kingdom in the world. We see it in prayer, the Eucharist, and when we are loved like Jesus loves us. Embodying to someone that they are “stupid, ignorant, and rebellious” does not embody this and allow them to see the Gospel we believe in. Our postures, attitudes, and reflections towards people say a lot about what we know about God and how God works in the world.
Mikes post really resonates with me, as there is a lot of great truth expressed within….
Going forward what to do about this? No Christian is going to be 100% on message 100% of the time, so we will always be falling short and shooting holes in our Gospel witness. By the same token, to throw the baby out with the bath water and not preach about the amazing peace available through Christ Jesus is not cool either. I sort of wonder if the answer isn’t some level of hard core authentic anthropology in combination with the scriptures. Such would create a significant amount of tempering, yet allow the scriptures to remain in full force at the same time. Belinda keyed me into something on this last night… the path is likely nowhere near as narrow as we project it to be, but it certainly can be a very odd and strange one at times.
The above all makes great sense within the confines of a community walking with Christ, its a whole other ball game when it comes to conveying such on a t-shirt or song lyrics. (Perhaps this is why something like the mass grandstand sing of Amazing Grace was so powerful).