Seen on a rural hillside: “Under Construction.”
Someone had added, in letters almost as large, “No equipment, no budget, no crew and no work, but we have the sign.”
For the vast majority of Christians, this sign sums up their philosophy of discipleship.
In their determination to not be ‘saved by works’ they have cultivated a historically isolated, theologically sterile, spiritually impotent ‘faith’ that I can only describe as ‘Christian inertia.'
In this cultivated obliviousness they have forgotten, perhaps deliberately, that we are “created to do good works in Christ” (Ephesians 2:10).
They have somehow come to believe that ‘being a Christian’ is all about having the sign; being transformed (Romans 12:2) by the living word of God, far from being a thriving daily reality, has become an abstraction reduced to a bumper sticker or slogan.
Jesus left us many parables of ‘worthless servants’ (Matt. 25:14-30) and pointless missionaries - whose only accomplishment is to make followers even more shallow and hypocritical than themselves (Matt. 23:13-15); and the story of two brothers: one who eagerly responds to his father’s commands, but does nothing, while the second brother responds rudely but then quietly goes to work (Matt. 21:28-31).
And Jesus asks us which one did the will of the father.
Perhaps ‘religion’ is always like this; those who make the most noise and public spectacle of their faith actually care – and do – the least. As Jesus put it, their faith is ‘seen by men’ and they ‘have had their reward’ (Matthew 6:2-5).
There are those who question whether I am ‘really a Christian’ – and I must admit that I have little interest in the two-dimensional façade most people seem to accept or define as contemporary Christianity.
I have no interest in being a sign on the side of the road; there is work to be done, and we are called to do it.
Why indeed do we call on God's name when we don’t have the slightest intention of doing God's will (Luke 6:46)?
Religious gatekeepers for millennia have done their best to convince us to adhere to – and kill for – an astringent, exclusivist ideological and theological purity.
In contrast, the Gospel of Jesus is (sometimes literally) disarmingly simple: love as you would be loved.
And this love of God and neighbor should be an all-consuming, unconditional love with our whole minds, hearts, and strength.
As Jesus put it, these grand theological constructions are like castles built on sand, and these carefully crafted empires are destined to collapse because, Jesus reminds us, the real fools are those who hear the Word of God but don’t act on it (Matt. 7:24-27).
The Apostle Paul warned us of those who would profit from the ‘faith’ (2 Corinthians 2:17) as they would sell us religion with no power (2 Timothy 3:5).
It was precisely because God ‘so loved the world’ that God, out of all-consuming love, gave the ultimate gift.
And our love, for God and God's world, should bear a gift just as full.
Morf Morford considers himself a free-range Christian who is convinced that God expects far more of us than we can ever imagine, but somehow thinks God knows more than we do. To pay his bills, he’s been a teacher for adults (including those in his local county jail) in a variety of setting including Tribal colleges, vocational schools, and at the university level in the People’s Republic of China. Within an academic context, he also writes an irreverent ESL blog and for the Burnside Writers Collective.
Image: Under construction sign, L.Watcharapol / Shutterstock.com